Written by Hombre Divertido
After blazing the trail of animated action adventure series in the mid sixties with Jonny Quest and Space Ghost, Hanna Barbera would introduce us to the wonderful creation of legendary animator Alex Toth, The Herculoids in 1967. More than forty years after its debut; Warner Archive brings Hanna Barbera’s first family of animated outer space action to DVD on July 29th 2011. Zandor, Tara, and their son Dorno, who happened to be on a first-name basis with his parents throughout the 18-episode (each consisting of two stories) two-year run, teamed with their friends Zok the laser-ray dragon; Igoo the giant rock ape; Tundro the tremendous; and Gloop and Gleep, the formless, fearless wonders to protect their planet from sinister invaders.
And protect their planet from sinister invaders is exactly what the Herculoids do in every episode. From creatures living below ground, to renegade robots, and villains with a grudge, each week the planet Amzot (Yes, due to rising real estate prices on Amzot, they would later relocate to Quasar) which the Herculoids called home would come under attack and we were treated to exciting battles as the Herculoids gathered together with military precision to defend their home.
In watching the series now it is easy to see why the show was so popular in its day. Featuring eight different characters each with multiple talents and weapons, the battles were exciting and action filled throughout each Herculoids episode. As with many animated series, it is also easy to see the repetitiveness in storytelling. Upon closer look, The Herculoids is a series that appears to have been rushed to the screen, and thus, we are actually treated to the development of the series as it progresses. The first episodes open with only music. It is not until episode three that the opening includes an introduction of the characters. The animation and storytelling gets progressively better as well. Yes, each story is basically the same, but many early episodes such as “The Pod People” lack any real explanation of the antagonist’s motivation. The writing is far superior in later episodes, and features fewer continuity errors that can be fun to spot in early episodes such as when the ship numbers change in “Defeat of Ogron”, or the Dorgyte appearance on Tundros back in the last scene of “The Lost Dorgyte”. You can also look for the appearance of mouths on Gloop and Gleep in several of the later episodes.
Ultimately The Herculoids holds up quite well. The action sequences are fun and the characters are endearing. Yes, the animation shows wear and there are flaws to be spotted as in “The Gladiators of Kyanite” when the gladiator’s right arm comes off his body as his ship hovers, but the majority of episodes look sharp, and though the music is straight from Jonny Quest, the quality is good here and adds energy to the experience.
As is common with Hanna Barbera productions; there is no origin episode, so we don’t know how they came together, how Gloop and Gleep are related to Cousin It, or why they are all called The Herculoids. Perhaps it is Zandor’s last name. What we do get in this new release is a far-too-brief “Special Feature” that is not even listed on the packaging. “The Herculoids: First Family of the Planet Quasar” consists of clips of authors, historians, and animators, touting the talents of Alex Toth and the wonderfulness that is The Herculoids.
Recommendation: Few animated series from your childhood will live up to the expectations created by your memories the way The Herculoids will. Yes, you may not remember the storylines being so similar, but all the action, adventure, and explosions, along with the characters we grew to love are here and not only worth a visit, but an introduction to your children as well.