Saturday Morning Cartoons - The 1970's

A Fun Package of Horrible Cartoons

DVD Review by Jon Cooke

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The 1970's weren't a good decade for cartoons. These were the years when studios like Hanna-Barbera and Filmation churned out some of the cheapest and most idiotic cartoons of all-time for TV networks to fill up their Saturday morning line-ups with. This was in large part thanks to the strict restrictions the networks imposed on their children's programming. The decade spawned lots of low-budget superhero cartoons, along with many shows starring a gang of mystery-solving teens and their wacky sidekicks. Scooby-Doo is a rare example of a character who managed to survive beyond the '70s, but a bulk of the others rightfully faded into obscurity... only to live on in a generation of foggy childhood memories.

Now any of those kids who want to recall those days of waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturday with a bowl of Froot Loops can re-live that experience (sort of) with WB Home Video's new series of Saturday Morning Cartoons DVDs. It's actually a pretty good idea and I am surprised somebody didn't think of sooner. I see it appealing to people who want to revisit a wide variety of childhood cartoons without investing in the more expensive complete sets. It also gives WB a way to get some of the more obscure titles in their vaults onto DVD in some form (after all, I am sure they could count the folks clamoring for a complete series DVD set of The Funky Phantom on one hand).

Are these shows any good? The short answer is... no. They are terrible. Some of them are so bad you'll have a hard time believing they were actually made in the first place. The shows range from goofy and harmless to pretty close to totally unwatchable. However, most are a great source for some "I-can't-believe-how-awful-this-is" laughs. In other words, they are so bad, they're unintentionally funny. However, the novelty wears off rather quick. I can't picture this set having much re-play value.

There's actually an extensive variety of '70s shows on-hand. More famous series such as Scooby-Doo, Batman (who is joined in this incarnation by a Scrappy Doo-esque sidekick named Bat Mite), and Josie and the Pussycats are mixed with some lesser-known efforts like Speed Buggy (featuring Mel Blanc as a talking dune buggy), Roman Holidays (think the Flintstones in ancient Rome), Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch (talking cars are chased by a gang of talking motorcycles), and Goober and the Ghostchasers (one in a long line of Scooby clones). In Yogi's Gang, Yogi Bear becomes an environmental do-gooder who flies the entire H-B gang around the world in a magical ark. The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan stars detective Charlie Chan and his ten (!) kids (who also play in a rock n' roll band) solving mysteries around the globe. The Funky Phantom has a group of teenagers and their bulldog, Elmo, befriending the ghost of a dead revolutionary war solider who talks exactly like Snagglepuss and his pet cat, who both live inside a grandfather clock. It's hard not to ask yourself "What were they THINKING!?" when you read show synopses like those! Here is what is featured on each disc:

Disc 1:

Disc 2:
Each disc starts off with the following disclaimer:

I am guessing this applies more towards the 1960's collection which I, unfortunately, haven't seen yet. All the episodes I skimmed through on the '70s collection actually looked pretty good (better than the picture quality on 1980s Jetsons set to be honest). The exception was the Tarzan cartoon which looked like it came from a 16mm print.

Bonus features were surprisingly informative for subjects I had zero interest in (Funky Phantom, Chan Clan). Who knew MASH's Jamie Farr wrote for the Chan Clan?? Not mentioned on the package, but on each disc is a short "Saturday Morning Wake-Up Call", a mock Saturday morning promo narrated by Casey Kasem giving you a run-down of the disc's contents. A pretty nice touch. Even though I don't care much for the shows themselves, I did appreciate seeing that there was apparently some effort behind putting this set together.

Being born in '79, I have no nostalgic attachment to any of these shows, so I am obviously not the target audience. If you do fall into that audience, you will likely have a blast. I know if WB ever throws together a similar sampler collection of '80s Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning schlock (Shirt Tales? The Gary Coleman Show? Flintstone Kids? Pac-Man?), I'd probably pick it up for the same reasons.

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All cartoon characters are (c) and TM their respective owners. Images Warner Home Video, Hanna-Barbera and DC Comics. Textual content 2009 by Jon Cooke.