Hoppity Hooper, Vol. 1

One Dollar Well Spent.

DVD Review by Jon Cooke

Hoppity HooperWe don't typically review a bargain basement $1 DVD like this, but I couldn't resist bringing some attention to a release of a fun, forgotten TV series. Jay Ward's Hoppity Hooper never achieved the fame of Rocky & Bullwinkle or George of the Jungle and as a result has mostly been absent from television for decades. Proving that you never know what will show up in the $1 DVD bin, an outfit called EastWest has released a "Volume 1" of assorted Hoppity adventures. I never got to see Hoppity in syndication or on cable growing up in the 1980s, so seeing a sample of this show on DVD was a treat.

EastWest is just one of many companies churning out discount DVDs that can regularly found in various department stores, dollar-only stores, grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the United States and Canada. The availability of the their product seems to be pretty hit-or-miss and their website only caters to retailers willing to buy in bulk. Unless you are prepared for a day of hardcore searching every store in town, you may be better off paying a slightly inflated price on eBay or Amazon (though I wouldn't recommend paying too much for this disc).

EastWest's DVD product include a number of compilations of the standard public domain cartoon and live action fare (you know, the stuff every company releases), cheap knock-offs of Disney features, and some releases, like this one, of possibly-still-copyrighted cartoons just obscure enough to fly beneath the radars of legal departments who may object. Hoppity is a perfect example. Who owns it these days anyway? Classic Media? The Jay Ward estate? General Mills? Or is it really public domain and fair game for a release like this? I have no idea and that's not really the point of this review. I will let the lawyers worry about that.

Uncle Waldo WigglesworthSet in fictional Foggy Bog, Wisconsin the series focuses on the adventures of the naive and childlike frog Hoppity Hooper (Chris Allen), his big dumb bugle-playing bear pal, Filmore (voiced by Bill Scott doing a variation of his Bullwinkle voice... except even stupider), and their "uncle" a fast-talking, yet lovable, con man wolf named Waldo Wigglesworth. Waldo is the character who steals the show. The over-the-top hammy voice acting by Hans Conried is absolutely hysterical. Like Rocky & Bullwinkle, each episode is narrated by an off-screen narrator (Paul Frees) and ends with a cliff-hanger telling us to stay tuned for the next part of the story ("Stay tuned for our next installment - "Fillmore in a Flap" or "Coming in on a Wing and a Bear"!").

Butterfly HuntEach show originally had two Hooper serial segments and in-between were repeats of cartoons from the Ward and Total TV library (such as Mr. Peabody, Commander McBragg, etc.). However, only the Hooper segments are presented on this EastWest DVD. Each Hooper storyline consisted of four parts, so they wrapped up much quicker than the typical Rocky & Bullwinkle serial. At the request of sponsor General Mills, the series was aimed towards a younger audience than the moose and squirrel. It's true that the pace isn't quite as fast-and-furious as the Bullwinkle shows, but Hoppity is still loaded with the very clever humor (and deliberately corny puns) you'd expect from a Jay Ward production.

dvd cover
Wait... am I watching a VHS tape or DVD? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

This DVD collects three 4-part adventures (and a Max Fleischer "Hunky & Spunky" short as a "bonus"). In "The Dragon of Eubetcha", Waldo inherits a castle in the far-off kingdom of Eubetchia that happens to be the home of a fire-breathing dragon. "Rare Butterfly Hunt" follows our heroes as they help a butterfly collector, Dr. Donald Dingbat, track down a six-foot tall man-eating butterfly. Finally, in "Oil's Well in Oasis Gardens", Waldo trades Hoppity's home for what turns out to be a totally worthless piece of land... until oil is discovered. I won't spoil the surprise of who Waldo initially ends up trading the little frog's house to.

As you would expect from a release like this, the quality isn't spectacular. However given the circumstances, the rarity of the material, and the fact it only costs a buck... we can give it a pass. The source is obviously from worn VHS copies (complete with jittery / snowy picture in places) and the picture quality varies from segment to segment. I can't complain much, since this could very well be the only DVD release (unofficial or official) that we will ever see. It's a shame the show is so overlooked. Hoppity, Waldo & Filmore deserve better than a cheap-o release like this.

If you see it for $1.00 the next time you are in the supermarket check-out line, don't hesitate to pick it up! Maybe you will find some kind soul online who has an extra copy they'd be willing to part with like I did (thanks, Burt!). Like I said earlier, you may have to give in and pay a slightly inflated price on a site like eBay... but just don't pay TOO much or you'll likely be disappointed.

Click here to order HOPPITY HOOPER, VOL. 1!

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All cartoon characters are (c) and TM their respective owners. Textual content 2007 by Jon Cooke.