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!


Chris Barat said...


All of your "pro" and "con" points are "right on." I don't recall MARINE BOY ever being broadcast on Saturday mornings (though I know that KIMBA was in NY), so I agree with you that it did not belong here. A later FLINTSTONES ep (one more geared towards the kid audience) would've seemed more "authentic," too.


Pokey said...

Chris and Joe, I remember in 1966 watching Marine Boy on Sat.AM. The reason that it is being released here,of course, is Seven Arts releasing it originally. Steve J.Carras,aka Pokey.