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Archive for the tag “Filmation”

Wanted: The Super Friends

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

As we covered in recent weeks, the DC comic book superheroes came to TV animation in the ’60s, being the project that got Filmation off the ground. In 1973, Hanna-Barbera took over (mostly) and softened the superhero elements to try and satisfy the killjoy TV censorship groups by adding a big dollop of SCOOBY-DOO elements to create the SUPER FRIENDS series.

In 1977, they dropped the meddling Earth kids and their dog (who were surprisingly useful despite lack of superpowers) and replaced them with Vulcan-looking space teenagers and their blue monkey (who managed to be frequently useless despite having formidable superpowers) for the ALL-NEW SUPER FRIENDS HOUR. Covered that one while on the subject of hot Jungle Girls several weeks back. It’s how we got onto this tangent.

The following year, we got CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER FRIENDS. This incarnation brought the show much closer to comics than the earlier HB takes had been, with more action, references to alter-egos, back-stories, and actual bad guys. The first half of each show resembled the previous series’ segments. The second half featured the conflict between a larger Justice League roster and the Legion of Doom; a group of comic book villains organized by Lex Luthor and including Cheetah (with razor-sharp claws), Braniac (whose mind-games are deadly), Scarecrow (who is… uh… made of straw?), and Solomon Grundy (who wants pants too)!

During its network run, the whole program ran under the “Challenge of the Super Friends” title. For a while, the show was expanded to 90 minutes by folding-in material from the previous “All-New Super Friends Hour.” Later, for syndicated reruns, the first-half segments (which didn’t feature the LoD) were run with the 1977 series opening, while the LoD second-half segments retained the “Challenge” opening. From Sept. 1978. More from the OldHorseman.

Force Phantom

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

Last week, we wandered into the realm of Hanna-Barbera’s SUPER FRIENDS. The various series in that franchise were a bit of a departure for HB, featuring characters owned by DC Comics. The studio’s closest competition in TV cartoons, Filmation, was more into licensed properties. In fact, they had pretty much made their start doing DC superheroes themselves.

Filmation’s 1960s DC superhero cartoons featured the JUSTICE LEAGUE, TEEN TITANS, with all their members, villains, and associated characters. They were produced in association with DC editorial, so they closely resembled the comic books. This would ultimately be the downfall of the shows, as the rock ’em, sock ’em action was decried by killjoy busybodies who were already wrecking TV in the late ’60s. (This is why the ’70s Super Friends series are so laughably neutered that actual super-villains weren’t even included in the first few iterations.)

As one might expect, Filmation’s DC superhero ‘toons started at the top, with SUPERMAN himself. Here seen in his first made-for-TV short from 1966. More from the OldHorseman.


The Cordillera Volcano

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

Filmation (the “We’re #2, so we try harder!” studio for classic TV animation) did mostly licensed properties, including TARZAN in 1976. (Which I covered a good while back.) Hanna-Barbera, the leading cartoon outfit, usually preferred to avoid licensing fees by going with ‘original’ characters. AKA: Knock-offs.

Possibly in response to the aforementioned Tarzan series, HB gave us JANA OF THE JUNGLE. Of course, half-naked white gals running around having adventures in jungles was a trope going back many decades in prose, comics, and film before this one was created to fill-out the GODZILLA POWER HOUR.

Jana’s show bore considerable resemblance to Tarzan’s. From the opening narration to the use of rotoscoping to give her more realistic movement. (Common practice by Filmation, but a rarity in HB productions.) One difference was placing Jana in a South American jungle, as opposed to Tarzan’s Africa. Natives were somewhat conspicuous by their absence in the Ape-Man’s stories, likely because there was no way to get away with depicting primitive black folks that wouldn’t be offensive in the ’70s. But you could still put spear-chucking Indians in loin cloths and feathers on the Jungle Girl’s program.

Jana’s big native fellow-traveler was voiced by Ted Cassidy (Lurch from the live-action and first animated ADDAMS FAMILY, as well as various voice roles including the HB Godzilla), who also guest-starred in the episode of Tarzan I uploaded. More from the OldHorseman.


Birth Of A New Hero

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

Last week’s Saturday upload was 1978’s FREEDOM FORCE, a short-lived Filmation superhero ‘toon that included Super Samurai, whom I described as a “less sci-fi version of Ultraman”.

Now, the name Ultraman has been used in DC comic books for various alternate universe, bad guy counterparts to Superman. It was also used in self-reference by a teenager with superpowers in the late ’80s sitcom MY SECRET IDENTITY. But I wasn’t writing about those guys…

You see, back in the ’60s and early ’70s, Japan sent us a show featuring a giant super-dude doing battle with leftovers from Godzilla’s movies. ULTRAMAN was a live-action program, done with the titular hero in a silver and red wetsuit judo-fighting rubber-suit monsters in the midst of miniature buildings while the Science Patrol flew around in toy planes on strings with small pyrotechnics in them… We freakin’ loved it!!!

Nippn Sunrise, now known as Sunrise, handled the animation. Ultraman spawned a whole franchise of follow-ups, including cartoons! Today we have a classic bit of Japanimation (from before everyone got uppity and rechristened it ‘anime’) introducing a new incarnation in 2D. From 1979. More from the OldHorseman.

Dragon Riders

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

A few weeks ago I featured the YOUNG SENTINELS / SPACE SENTINELS, one of Filmation’s rare ventures not involving licensed properties. That show was a single season and mostly forgotten, but one of its characters was recycled the next year in the FREEDOM FORCE, which was broadcast in 1978 as part of the TARZAN AND THE SUPER 7 cartoon block. The oddly Nordic-looking version of the Greek demigod Hercules returned, now riding Pegasus, the winged horse.

Now, why Hercules, who possessed the ability to fly under his own power with the Sentinels, needed a winged horse here is a good question. But Pegasus has always been too popular an image to be confined to the lesser-known hero Bellerophon, his original rider. So he’s been associated with bigger stars like Perseus. (Who didn’t need a winged horse either, since he had the ability to fly thanks to talaria he wore.) Strange paring him with Herc though, as one of the strongman’s legendary labors involved killing Pegasus’ nephew!

Filling out the team were generic versions of public domain characters Merlin and Sindbad… Along with “Super Samurai”, who was sort of a less sci-fi version of ULTRAMAN, a Japanese guy who could transform into what appeared to be living, giant samurai armor.

Probably the biggest “star” of this little group was ISIS, an animated version of the super-heroine from Filmation’s 1975 live-action, Saturday Morning show, originally shared with SHAZAM. The animated Isis would pop into Filmation’s HERO HIGH a few years later… By which time the mere five episodes of Freedom Force would already be slipping into oblivion. More from the OldHorseman.

Morpheus: The Sinister Sentinel

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

It’s pretty well-known that the ’90s live-action MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS series adapted most of its designs and tons of stock footage from the Japanese SUPER SENTAI franchise. But I may have stumbled upon the source for the non-Japanese elements…

A multiracial group of kids granted superpowers and directed by an alien intelligence in the form of a giant, bald, holographic floating head assisted by a dwarf-sized comic relief robot. Sounds a bit familiar, right? Only the YOUNG SENTINELS did it sixteen years before the Power Rangers.

One of only a handful of Filmation productions not based on licensed properties, the Sentinels were already on the air when STAR WARS hit popular culture like an anvil dropped on a coyote’s brain-case. So, to emphasize the sci-fi nature of the series, it was re-named SPACE SENTINELS partway through its run. But that run wasn’t particularly long. Thirteen episodes, which is about par for the 1970s Saturday Morning game. It takes more than superpowers to beat both MR. MAGOO and SCOOBY-DOO, who were in the same time slot with new programs.

But the oddly Nordic “Hercules” from this show would be incorporated into Filmation’s even shorter-lived superhero offering the next year. From September 1977. More from the OldHorseman.

Double Trouble

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

Jerry Lewis, perhaps best known to generations of Americans for his role in hosting the big MDA telethons from the ’50s into the 21st Century, actually had a diverse career in show biz. (Apparently achieving godhood in France, for some reason.)

Eddie Murphy owes a bit of his success to Lewis, as his 1996 NUTTY PROFESSOR hit film was a remake of Jerry’s most popular movie of the same title from ’63. Then Murphy’s sequel borrowed the concept of having the star in a bunch of different character roles from Lewis’ 1965 FAMILY JEWELS.

Also borrowing from the latter picture was the 1970 Filmation cartoon series WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN, featuring various Lewis characters in animated form. In this episode, the Professor character, apparently having learned nothing from STAR TREK TOS: THE ENEMY WITHIN, or any of the Superman comic origins of Bizarro, hits Jerry with a clonermajig and creates an Evil Twin… Not unlike Buddy Love from The Nutty Professor…

Though Jerry Lewis was involved with the series, his characters were voiced by none other than David Lander, best known as Squiggy from the live-action LAVERNE & SHIRLEY spin-off from HAPPY DAYS. Also on the show are Howard Morris, beloved by ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW fans as Ernest T. Bass, but also the voice of Jughead from the ARCHIES and the titular WALDO KITTY. (Both ‘toons previously featured on this channel.) Of course, we also have Jane Webb, who did most of the female voices in Filmation shows, from Batgirl to both Mary-Ann and Ginger, Betty and Veronica, not to mention SABRINA (previously featured here as well). More from The OldHorseman.

One of the wildest sketches in television history came when Howard Morris, the comedian from ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, joined Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar in a YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS spoof of THIS IS YOUR LIFE.   It’s funny from the first moment, but once Howard Morris shows up as Uncle Goopy, prepare to pee your pants.

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