Saturday, May 30, 2009

DVD Review: Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 1

Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 1

(Released May 26, 2009 by Warner Home Video)
 Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Once upon a time, theatrical cartoons came to the infant medium of television. They were so successful that made-for-TV cartoons soon followed, with producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera leading the way. Most often, they populated afternoon (and sometimes early evening) timeslots.

Then, someone discovered that kids would flock to cartoons run on SATURDAY MORNING, perhaps to celebrate completing a hard week of school! (Hell, I know *I* did!) This movement reached its height in the 1960s (…when Saturday morning cartoons would run until as late as 2 PM!) – and so is the premise for Warner Home Video’s release Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 1.

This is not a perfect set… but it IS a very good set and worth the time of anyone who loved or lived through the period – or has any after-the-fact interest in same.
Disc One in order of Appearance: Top Cat, Atom Ant, Peter Potamus, Secret Squirrel, The Flintstones, The Porky Pig Show, and Quick Draw McGraw.

Disc Two in order of Appearance: The Jetsons, Marine Boy, Space Ghost and Dino Boy, The Herculoids, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles, Magilla Gorilla, and a SECOND Quick Draw McGraw Show! …Kinda makes your mouth water, doesn’t it!

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.


The Inclusion of MARINE BOY: Sorry to its fans, but it is all wrong for this set! I’m not certain if it even WAS a Sat AM show (though I could be wrong)! If so, which one of the THREE NETWORKS was it on? No matter, an anime show is jarringly out of place in that mix of familiar Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. standards – and is not particularly representative of the “Sat AM experience” of that era. What little anime there was at the time was in weekday syndication… at least in New York.

Why not simply select another episode of a H-B hero-action show that Warner Bros. already controls the rights to (Say, MOBY DICK AND THE MIGHTY MIGHTOR), or a ROAD RUNNER SHOW (“When you’re on a highway and Road Runner goes Beep-Beep…”), or a BUGS BUNNY SHOW (“On with the Show, this is it!") – the half-hour episodes with all the interstitials, before they were combined into one mega-show with lots of edits.
And, in an era of “catchy” theme songs (even for other Anime like Speed Racer and Gigantor), MARINE BOY has got to have one of the WORST theme songs ever hung onto any animated program! Okay, I’ll move on now…

Content Notes: Upon opening the package, this set disappoints us before watching anything, as there is NO CONTENT LISTING anywhere inside the package! One disc is on a “hinged holder” and the other disc rests on the inside back wall of the packaging! But, beyond that, there is no list of titles, no order, and no indication of what disc they are on. Ditto for the extra features. I may be second to none in my admiration of the groundbreaking animated product of the 1960s…

BUT, are these shows such classics that we’re already SUPPOSED TO KNOW what they are before viewing?!Especially with a set THIS diverse in content, you MUST list the titles somewhere on or inside the packaging! It’s standard practice for DVD sets! I shouldn’t need to pop in a disc, go to the Internet, or pick up a research book for this information! It should be right there as part of the package, as Warner HAS done for Looney Tunes, Popeye, previous Hanna-Barbera sets, Tom and Jerry, etc.
Yes, ALL DVD packaging has become cheaper of late. On the TV side, one can point to the recent Third Season PERRY MASON and Fourth Season VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA collections (to name some on my shelf) vs. prior seasons of these same series – but this takes the cake! There is NO EXCUSE for having NO LISTING of the set’s contents! Period!

Double-Dipping: Some of the set’s contents (…TOO MUCH for my liking!) has already been released on other sets! The episodes of TOP CAT, THE FLINTSTONES, THE JETSONS, and SPACE GHOST AND DINO BOY are “double-dips” – and needless duplication for those dedicated purchasers of other, “complete” animated series sets – BUT (unlike MARINE BOY) they are quintessentially representative of the “Sat AM ‘60s experience”, and so I can’t complain too loud and long.

Menu Navigation: A minor quibble, but 10 of the 14 shows here consisted of MULTIPLE CARTOON SEGMENTS PER SHOW. The menu navigation will allow you to play EACH cartoon in a program SEPARATELY (…and that’s a good thing), but will NOT allow you to play the SHOW AS A WHOLE – as we would have seen on those long ago Saturday mornings, and that’s a bad thing. In other words, at the end of each cartoon in a “show of three segments”, you are returned to the menu to make the next selection – and, in order to watch the show in its entirety, you must be interrupted after each cartoon.

Print Quality: In some instances, the set has its faults with lesser print quality, but a disclaimer is offered to mitigate that, so at least they’re playing fair with us.

The Very Idea: First and foremost, for someone like me who watched nearly every cartoon the three networks could offer from the early sixties onward, it would be the very existence of such a package!

The Shows Contained Herein: With the possible exception of a show from Jay Ward (Bullwinkle, Hoppity Hooper, or George of the Jungle) or Total Television (King Leonardo, Tennessee Tuxedo, or Underdog) – which are not owned by Warner Bros. – Saturday morning in the sixties pretty much WAS Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Except where previously noted, EVERY SHOW included here is perfectly representative of what those Saturday mornings were like. If only THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW weren’t missing!Perhaps this was an opportunity to introduce the, as of yet unseen on DVD, 1968 Filmation BATMAN series, but I suspect we’ll get a complete series set of those before too long. And, the inclusion of Filmation’s other DC Comics series (Superman and Aquaman – all of which ARE owned by Warners) would be more double-dipping, so I’m glad they were left off. The same would apply to TOM AND JERRY.

And, there are TWO Quick Draw McGraw Shows! That couldn’t please me more! ...Unless there were three or four!

The Specific Versions of Certain Shows: The Porky Pig Show has opening and closing credits AND INTERSTITALS! The Magilla Gorilla Show has opening and closing credits – making it not a “true” double dip, as the Magilla “Complete Series” DVD did not have these credits included anywhere in the set. Peter Potamus has the closing “We Really Hate to Tell You but we Have to be Off…” closing musical sequence.
In almost every case, the selected episodes of each series are representative of that series – and often representative of the series at its best. Quick Draw McGraw has one episode each devoted to El Kabong and Snuffles his dog biscuit-addicted bloodhound, both staples of the series. Augie Doggie runs away from home to prove he is a “man” – and is ultimately frightened back by something unexpected and appropriate. The Three Goofy King’s Guards, Yippee, Yappie, and Yahooie are subjected to retraining by a Phil Silvers / Sgt. Bilko-like drill sergeant. Space Ghost battles a lava monster and his arch-enemy Zorak. Porky Pig fends off Charlie The Dog’s efforts to get the Pig to adopt him. All very representative!The only choice I question, within the context of a Saturday Morning Cartoons Set, would be the Flintstones entry “The Happy Household”. If this exercise in domestic strife was selected to illustrate its indelible connection to The Honeymooners, I can understand.

But, since this was more a Sat AM oriented effort, why not use an episode with Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, or one of the later and more fanciful episodes from the last two seasons – like visiting the 1964 World’s Fair, Fred playing “Superstone” or being swallowed by the great prehistoric whale “Adobe Dick”… or even one with The Great Gazoo. At least they didn’t pick one of the earliest ones about suspected infidelity!

Still, kudos to Warner Bros. for some fine and overall appropriate episode selection.

The Writers: The best cartoon writers of the age are represented here: Michael Maltese and Warren Foster (perhaps the two best of ALL TIME given their body of work on both theatrical and television shorts), Tedd Pierce, Tony Benedict, Walter Black, William Hamilton, Larry Markes, and more.

The Voice Talent: A true “Who’s Who of Cartoon Voicing” is headlined by Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Don Messick, Paul Frees, Jean Vander Pyl, Hal Smith, Doug Young ,Gary Owens, Howard Morris, Allan Melvin, John Stephenson, Alan Reed, Bea Benederet, George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Arnold Stang, Henry Corden, Ted Cassidy, Mike Road, Dick Beals and so many more! A greater collection of voice actors could not be assembled for a single set!

The Extra Features: Brief (average about 5 minutes each) but informative and entertaining background features on Quick Draw McGraw, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles, and The Herculoids with various animation figures including Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Earl Kress, Scott Jeralds, Jerry Beck, Tom Sito, and others.

Each disc has a short preview feature titled “Saturday Morning Wakeup Call”. It’s a guided tour of the contents of the disc, narrated by Gary (Voice of Space Ghost) Owens! And, yes, Owens gives us a bit of a chuckle when he gets to discussing Space Ghost on Disc Two, momentarily stepping out of the narrator’s role and referring to Space Ghost in the first person!

Overall: Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 1 succeeds in its mission. It brings back (and sometimes unlocks) fond memories for those who were there, and is a very fitting “research sampler” for those who were not.
It features shows I never thought I’d see on DVD like Peter Potamus, Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel, and Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles!

And, it sure made me long for Complete Series DVD sets of Quick Draw McGraw and The Herculoids!

…Maybe this’ll help pave the way!
And, while you’re at it, bring on Volume Two!

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Bloopers

While we await the more substantial post to come, let’s enjoy this brief collection of bloopers by Richard Basehart and David Hedison of my quintessential sixties TV favorite VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.

It’s from the Black and White First Season (1964-1965). I wish I could have seen what bloopers were like for the more bombastic and outrageous later color seasons.

It’s only 28 seconds, so how can you not take a peek. Notice the “Bucket Banging Sound” in the second blooper that would signal the actors when to lurch in reaction to explosions , tidal waves, and other monstrous things that would buffet the Submarine Seaview about! Enjoy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Good Bye to Lois and Mickey!

Over the past week we’ve lost two significant voices…

JOAN ALEXANDER was the radio voice of LOIS LANE in the SUPERMAN radio show, and carried that role (with co-star Bud Collyer) into the Max Fleischer SUPERMAN theatrical cartoons of the early 1940s.

And, maybe just as important to me as a child of the sixties, continued the role (again with Bud Clark/Superman Collyer) for the 1966-1969 Superman animated series produced by Filmation!

Can’t speak for the radio program, but both animation performances are yours to enjoy on DVD in the 2009 release Max Fleischer’s Superman 1941-1942 and the 2007 release The New Adventures of Superman. You can read my long review of the Filmation Superman DVD set HERE.

Ms. Alexander passed on May 21, 2009 at the age of 92.

WAYNE ALLWINE, since 1983, was the third (…and in my opinion BEST) voice of MICKEY MOUSE, following Mickey’s original voice Walt Disney himself, and studio veteran Jimmy McDonald.

Many of Wayne Allwine’s best performances as Mickey are, alas, not presently available on DVD as they occurred on the animated TV series MICKEY MOUSEWORKS and DISNEY’S HOUSE OF MOUSE of the last decade or so.

The primary reason I prefer Allwine’s Mickey to that of longtime voice McDonald, and even that of Mr. Disney is that Allwine could best carry funny and more sophisticated dialogue – as seen in the television shows – and that is the way I would write Mickey, if I’d ever gotten the opportunity during my tenure as a freelance Disney comic book scripter with Gemstone Publications.

One sterling example of this that IS on DVD in the modern theatrical short “Runaway Brain” (1995), found on

Check out Allwine’s facility for comedy that neither of his predecessors could approach.

Allwine is also represented on this set by the featurettes “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (His first “official” performance!) and “The Prince and the Pauper”. These are very well done – but it is when Allwine portrays Mickey as HIMSELF, rather than a character out of literature, that Wayne Allwine really makes Mickey Mouse his own!

In one of those simply wonderful things about the way life works, Wayne Allwine was married to Russi Taylor… who is the voice of Minnie Mouse! They met WHILE performing as Mickey and Minnie and (as if in character) the result must have been inevitable!

Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor appear in a documentary feature on the same DVD set, titled “The Voice Behind the Mouse”, that runs for nearly 24 minutes.

They clearly love each other, as they are seen naturally (not “made-for-the-camera”) holding hands for the majority of the piece. They look at and speak to each other with the kind of genuine affection that you just KNOW Mickey and Minnie would have… if the Powers-That-Be would allow.

Over the course of the feature they discuss their own experiences and go into the Mickey-voicing careers of Jimmy McDonald and Walt Disney at length.

One unfortunately prophetic quote from Mr. Allwine on his speaking for Mickey: “I’m THREE… There’s gonna be a FOUR!”

I’m just sorry that day has come so soon!

Wayne Allwine passed on May 18, 2009 at the all too soon age of 62.

Can’t say how long it’ll remain online, but here’s "Runaway Brain". Enjoy the performances of Wayne Allwine, Russi Taylor, Jim Cummings as Pete/Julius/Monster, Bill Farmer as Pluto, and Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frankenollie.

Oh, if only there were a few more like THIS!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Pair of Popeyes – Black and White and Colorized.

Here we have the WW II Era Popeye cartoonFleets of Strength”, both in its original Black and White version and a later colorized version.

The colorized version looks better than I feared – and is actually kinda good, compared to some of the dreadful jobs done on older Max Fleischer Popeyes.

And, this cartoon has MY ALL TIME FAVORITE VERSION OF THE POPEYE THEME SONG! Presumably, the vastly underrated Sammy Timberg, who also arranged the music for the Fleischer SUPERMAN series, arranged this rendition. It lasted all too briefly, debuting shortly before the USA’s entry into WW II, and lasting until shortly after the wartime cartoons began.

The Black and White version is available as part of the stellar POPEYE THE SAILOR 1941-1943 DVD collection of 2008. The color version makes for an interesting comparison, when viewed back to back.

Opinions vary on the content of these wartime shorts but, at TIAH Blog we’re only here to have fun – so just enjoy.

I’ll post some less controversial Popeyes soon, including another Black and White cartoon which is probably my favorite of the entire series, and a better-than-average, formula resisting color entry from the Famous/Paramount days.

Enjoy… Toot! Toot!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When the Future Becomes the Past!

Last Post, we examined the mysterious Recording from the Future (Click Here).

Now, here’s a recording from the past that was once about the future, but is now about the past.

Aw, heck… It’s only a joint LOST IN SPACE and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA promo! But still, consider yourself less ripped off than anyone who spent three dollars on that phony message from 2094!

And ya gotta love the fact that both shows were once set in the “future” 1997-2000 for LIS and 1973-1982 for VOYAGE – and now both are set in the “past”.

And, the promos are in glorious Black and White!

…Maybe the Recording from the Future was left to tell us that, one day, both shows would beIn Color!Enjoy…

Monday, May 11, 2009

Comic Book Ads: Recording From the Future! (…Cue scary music!)

The 1970s thru early ‘80s was a very weird time for comic books.
With Gold Key as a notable exception, art was arguably better than it had been in the preceding Gold and Silver Ages… and, for all publishers in general, story content was not.

Beyond story and art, a constant of the period were full pages devoted to tiny rectangular ads packed many to the page. One of the oddest I’ve seen was “The Timeless Bass Secret”, about which I posted HERE.

Today, we highlight the mysterious Recording From the Future (…Cue scary music!), as seen in THE JOKER # 3 and, presumably, other DC Comic Books cover dated October 1975.

I’ll eschew any further introduction, and let the ad speak for itself:

“On February 11, 1969 a recording was found on a New York City elevator. It purports to have been recorded approximately 125 years from now. For copy, send $3 to: The Record, (Some Post Office Box in New York, New York, etc., etc.).”
As we so conveniently abbreviate these days… WTF?

So, lessee… For those originally reading the comic, this recording would have been found about 6 ½ years ago – and about 40 ¼ years ago to us, here in May 2009.

The recording’s “purported” origins would place it as having been made in the year 2094 (…Cue scary music!)
…Yet, somehow, it was recorded on a device its discoverer could play in 1969? Or, for, that matter 1975… or even 2009?

Considering all the “dead-or-near-dead” recording formats among those that have come and gone in a mere 40 years – Vinyl records, Reel-to-reel tape, 8-Track tapes, Cassettes, CDs, Beta, Laserdisc, VHS, DVD, H-D DVD, Blu-Ray DVD, Digital downloads… and those yet to be discovered in the coming 85 years – how could the individual behind this ad ever authenticate his claim?

Did George Jetson or Mister Mxyzptlk tell him? Maybe DC’s Rip Hunter Time Master, Jay Ward’s Mr. Peabody, or Irwin Allen’s Time Tunnel guys!

In comparison to what was heard on the recording, would our 1969 English (or whatever language it was) sound as stilted as Shakespeare – or Silver Age comic book dialogue? Maybe it was recorded in INTERLAC – DC’s common interplanetary language of the future.

Was this message from the future some insightful knowledge that, if properly applied, might change the course of all mankind… or was it just a toothpaste ad?

And, how many people actually parted with three whole 1975-era dollars to find out?

One can but wonder… (…Cue scary music!)
Hey! Maybe one of OUR DESCENDANTS might actually be the one to MAKE THAT RECORDING in 2094!!! …Wouldn’t that be a hoot and a half?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Yet Another One of “Freakazoid’s Final Jokes… On US”!

Proving that the zany spirit of FREAKAZOID! is not dead (…and, hopefully, never will be), here’s creator Paul Rugg on his "publicity tour" for the recently released FREAKAZOID! Season Two DVD – from Mr. Rugg’s Blog.

Just click on the link below… You won’t be sorry!

Froynlaven: Strangest Interview I've Ever Done

You won’t be sorry… but, if you ARE sorry, we are very sorry that you were “sorry”, even for a moment. It is our aim at TIAH Blog that the reader is always right – and never feels “sorry” for visiting our Blog… and, should we ever reach such a “sorry” state again, we declare ourselves “sorry” in advance. We now conclude this post, and are off to play a rousing board game of SORRY!
Dedicated to Mr. Rugg, Mr. McCann, and the Freaky-One, himself!