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Warner Bros. Presents Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s DVD Review

Buy Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s on DVD from Amazon.com Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s (1980-1988) Series & DVD Details

Featured Series: "Goldie Gold and Action Jack", "Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos", "The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley", "The Flintstone Kids", "Mister T", "The Biskitts", "Monchhichis", "Galtar and the Golden Lance", "Dragon's Lair", "Thundarr the Barbarian", "The Kwicky Koala Show"

Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Joe Ruby, Ken Spears, Freddy Monnickendam, Martin Short / Directors: Rudy Larriva, John Kimball, Charles A. Nichols, Jim Drake, Gary Shimikawa, George Gordon, Carl Urbano, Rudy Zamora / Writers: Steve Gerber , Lane Raichert, Dan DiStefano, Janis Diamond, Barry Blitzer, Terry & Sue Shakespeare, Martin Pasko, Flint Dille, Mark Jones, Len Janson, Chuck Menville, Gene Ayres, Duane Poole, Tom Swale, Dick Robbins, Bryce Malek, Neal Barbera, Rick Merwin, Chuck Couch, Lew Marshall, Cliff Roberts, Patsy Cameron

Cast: Judy Strangis (Goldie Gold), Sonny Melendrez ("Action" Jack Travis), Chuck Norris (Chuck Norris), Robert Ito (Tabe), Sam Fontana (Reed), Bill Martin (Claw), Kathy Garver (Pepper), Mona Marshall (Too-Much), Keone Young (Super Ninja), Martin Short (Ed Grimley, Emil Gustav), Joe Flaherty (Count Floyd), Jonathan Winters (Roger Gustav), Catherine O'Hara (Miss Tina Malone), Danny Cooksey (Wendell Malone), Frank Welker (Sheldon, Stalagbite, Patchett, Thork, Dirty Dawg), Lennie Weinrib (Freddy Flintstone), Hamilton Camp (Barney Rubble, Cragmire), Julie Dees (Wilma Slaghoople), B.J. Ward (Betty Jane Bricker), Marilyn Scheffler (Rocky Ratrock), Susan Blu (Dreamchip Gemstone), Bumper Robinson (Philo Quartz), Henry Corden (Ed Flintstone, Edna Flintstone), Mel Blanc (Dino, Captain Caveman), Charlie Adler (Cavey Jr.), Kenneth Mars ("Captain Caveman" Narrator, King Max), Mr. T (Mr. T), Phillip La Marr (Woody Daniels), Siu Ming (Kim Nakamura), Shawn Lieber (Jeff Harris), Teddy S. Field III (Spike O'Neill), Takayo Fischer (Ms. Priscilla Brisby), Amy Linker (Robin O'Neill), Dick Beals (Scat), Kathleen Helpie (Sweets), Jerry Houser (Shiner), Daryl Hickman (Wags), Bob Holt (Bump), Kip King (Shecky), B.J. Ward (Lady), Henry Gibson (Downer), Robert Morse (Moncho), Laurel Page (Kyla), Ellen Gerstell (Tootoo), Hank Saroyan (Thumkii), Sidney Miller (Horgg), Bob Arbogast (Snogs, Ither), Frank Nelson (Wizarr), Lou Richards (Galtar), Mary McDonald Lewis (Princess Goleeta), Brock Peters (Tormack), Bob Sarlatte (Dirk the Daring), Michael Mish (Timothy), Ellen Gerstell (Princess Daphne), Arthur Berghardt (Cinge), Clive Revill (Storyteller), Fred Travalenda (King Ethelred), Peter Cullen (Bertram, Sir Hubert Blunt, Bristletooth), Bob Ridgely (Thundarr), Nellie Bellflower (Princess Ariel), Henry Corden (Ookla the Mok), Robert Allen Ogle (Kwicky Koala), John Stephenson (Wilford Wolf), Jim MacGeorge (Crazy Claws), Don Messick (Rawhide Clyde), Marshall Efron (Ratso), Michael Bell (George, Ranger Rangerfield), Allan Melvin (Joey), Matthew Faison (Officer Bullhorn)

Running Time: 265 Minutes (11 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese; Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in Spanish, Portuguese
Original Airdates: October 4, 1980 - September 10, 1988
DVD Release Date: May 4, 2010; Suggested Retail Price: $26.98
Black Keepcase in Cardboard box; Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)

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Sweets makes a friend in Fuzzy the caterpillar in The Biskitts episode "As the Worm Turns." Monchhichis take to the air, with help from a dragon wasp. Monchhichi means happiness, mon. Before acquiring his titular Golden Lance, Galtar of Shad makes the acquaintance of Princess Goleeta.

Disc 2

6. The Biskitts: "As the Worm Turns / Trouble in the Tunnel" (22:07) (Originally aired September 17, 1983)

Bearing more than a little resemblance to "The Smurfs", "The Biskitts" centers on tiny dogs that live in a swamp island castle and protect hidden royal treasure. The Gargamel of this piece is King Max, a tyrant bent on finding and trapping the talking pups. This episode and others consisted of two 11-minute halves. In the first, Sweets adopts Fuzzy, an insatiable caterpillar displaced by King Max. In the second, when a mole tunneling beneath Biskitt Island draws the notice of King Max, it's up to young Scat to alert the others of the threat.

7. Monchhichis: "Tickle Pickle" (22:38) (Originally aired September 10, 1983)

The Monchhichis are happy little monkeys, forced to live high in the trees by the Grumplins, a race with hate evidently in their DNA. Apparently, the Monchhichis' bliss is manufactured because with this episode's breaking of a "tickle crystal", the energy source behind their Happy Works factory, threatens all with coming down from their happy high. To fix the problem, the monkeys pay a visit to the great and powerful Wizzar of Monchhia.

8. Galtar and the Golden Lance: "Galtar and the Princess" (21:23) (Originally aired September 2, 1985)

In the Dindal desert, Galtar encounters Princess Goleeta, who is in hiding from the evil Tormack. Together, they decide to pursue Tormack and reclaim the sacred shield he's stolen from Goleeta's people. Seen on their perilous journey: a faceless steersman, giant rock men with clubs, a fire-breathing water dragon, and, in the feared Skull Forest, a kindly hermit who directs Galtar to his titular lance. This comparably mature adventure series betrays the DVD title; it was syndicated rather than part of the Saturday morning schedule.

Princess Daphne reminds Dirk the Daring and his squire Timothy that tomorrow is her birthday, setting them forth in the Dragon's Lair episode, "Tale of the Enchanted Gift." Thundarr the Barbarian proudly grabs hold of a Groundling pursuing him on the way to the ruin city of Manhat. Per tradition, Crazy Claws outsmarts fur trader Rawhide Clyde and his dog Bristletooth in the gang's "Kwicky Koala Show" short.

9. Dragon's Lair: "Tale of the Enchanted Gift" (20:49) (Originally aired September 8, 1984)

Set in the kingdom of fair Ethelred, this classical fantasy series centers on a brave knight called Dirk the Daring. To find a birthday gift for Princess Daphne, Dirk and his squire Timothy go on a quest and find a dazzling golden falcon statue.
Unbeknownst to all, Dirk and Timothy were referred to the item by Cinge, a dragon not known for his thoughtfulness. When Cinge's evil plans become clear, Dirk and Timothy must bravely venture into the dragon's lair to rescue the princess. To conjure the feel of the video game, a narrator occasionally poses options and shows us potential outcomes.

10. Thundarr the Barbarian: "Secret of the Black Pearl" (20:38) (Originally aired October 4, 1980)

"Thundarr the Barbarian" is set in the distant future, two thousand years after the great foreseen apocalypse of 1994. The titular hero is a human warrior standing up against the unjust monsters in control. Thundarr is aided by enchanted Princess Ariel and unintelligible creature Ookla the Mok. In this premiere episode, Thundarr and friends carry out a mission for an old courier weakened by Groundlings. They transport a powerful black pearl to the ruins of Manhat (our Manhattan), with the evil Gemini and his mechanical knights in pursuit. This is more sophisticated and compelling than the fantasies with which it shares Disc 2.

11. The Kwicky Koala Show: "Show #1" (22:00) (Episode comprised of segments reportedly first aired September 12, 1981 and September 19, 1981)

"The Kwicky Koala Show" was comprised of four different types of short segments, each of which is represented in the half-hour of airtime offered here. The titular hero sounds and acts like Droopy, but is actually, we're told, the world's fastest Australian bear. The other bits of this old-fashioned animated comedy are as slapsticky. Circus performers George and Joey, collectively the Bungle Brothers, get the most installments but least runtime. Crazy Cat, a wildcat who outwits hunters, talks and acts like Groucho Marx. Finally, there are the vagrants Dirty Dawg and his sidekick Ratso, who regularly butt heads with Officer Bullhorn.

"Dry Run" (1:49) - George and Joey try a high-dive trick.

"Robinson Caruso" (5:58) - Wilford Wolf is unwilling to share his personal island with Kwicky Koala. Wilford is also opposed to partnering with Kwicky on a treasure hunt.

"High Roller" (0:50) - George and Joey attempt a high-wire act.

"The Claws Conspiracy" (6:00) - As usual, Crazy Claws evades persistent fur trapper Rawhide Clyde and his dog Bristletooth, who ignore Ranger Rangerfield's no-hunting laws.

"Hat Dance" (0:50) - George and Joey's Mexican hat dance doesn't go as planned.

"Dirty's Debut" (6:33) - Broke and in need of food, Dirty Dawg enters Ratso into a dog show.

Cinge, the dragon of "Dragon's Lair", and his Giddy Goons peer into life in Ethelred's castle. Reprising his SCTV vampire Count Floyd, Joe Flaherty has trouble scaring '80s kids in his portion of "The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley."

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like nearly all television predating the late-1990s, the episodes of Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s are presented in the 1.33:1 "fullscreen" aspect ratio (which, as 16:9 displays continue to spread, may be more aptly called "narrowscreen"). Overall, I was very pleased by the picture quality here. There were some problems, but the presentation is surprisingly watchable for presumably ill-preserved, low-interest cartoons never before restored for DVD and appearing on a compilation release.
The video is especially satisfying following disc-opening notices warning of lost "original film elements" and "varying quality." Were these messages inadvertently carried over from the '60s and '70s sets? Because everything looks pretty terrific here.

One notices the limited resolution and resources of '80s TV animation, but the DVD's fine picture makes it easy not to linger on those realities.

To go into more specific detail... "Flintstone Kids" exhibited some flicker on a few scenes and some scratches, its "Captain Caveman and Son" segment even heavier on the white specks. "Monchhichis" has some errant lines and a general softness to it. "Kwicky Koala" is quite a bit softer and more washed-out looking than its company. The swords and sorcery fantasy series look remarkably great, marred only by the rare speck. "Thundarr" especially shines. On the whole, I don't think anyone with realistic expectations will be disappointed by these unexpectedly polished presentations.

Each show is treated to a one-channel monaural soundtrack. The audio is noticeably dated and limited, but clear enough. The mixes are free of distortion and set at consistent volume levels. Each episode is even (newly?) dubbed in Spanish and Portuguese and accompanied by welcome English SDH, French, and Portuguese subtitles.

Ken Spears, the Spears of Ruby-Spears, talks about what makes "Thundarr the Barbarian" so fondly remembered in the bonus featurette "Lords of Light!" One has to really scour the DVD menus for artwork of Chuck Norris, which is odd because I would think he's the most meaningful icon here to those digging 1980s nostalgia.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Tossing a bone to the most presently popular show of the bunch, Warner's one main DVD extra is the substantial Disc 1 featurette "Lords of Light! The Story of Thundarr the Barbarian" (18:30). It touches upon the setting, characters, production, and legacy of "Thundarr." The piece provides a brief overview of creator Ruby-Spears and context on where this type of fantasy came from. Appearing in new interviews are creators/executive producers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, animation professors Charles Zembillas and Chuck Sheetz, and author/Hollywood developer Christopher Vogler. All speak seriously and fondly about the show.

Clip from "Lords of Light! The Story of Thundarr the Barbarian":

This fine featurette makes good use of clips from other Warner-owned TV animation, including Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear cartoons. It probably should appear on Disc 2 with the set's featured "Thundarr" episode, but that's a barely mentionable nitpick that hardly detracts from a nice retrospective too few studios would ever consider giving their vintage TV shows. (It's interesting that Ruby and Spears have never appeared in a similar capacity on any of the countless "Alvin and the Chipmunks" animated DVDs that Paramount has released.)

Disc One opens with promos for Scooby-Doo!: Abracadabra Doo and Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 1. A promo for the Peanuts 1960's Collection DVD gets its own listing on Disc 1's Special Features menu. And one for the Volume 2 1960s and 1970s Saturday Morning Collection DVDs can be accessed from Disc 2's main menu.

The static 16:9 menu screens adhere to the colorful rectangle cover design while continuing to downplay Chuck Norris' presence and committing an unacceptable number of show and episode title typos. Each disc's main menu plays generic instrumentation that could come from any 1980s cartoon. One minor shortcoming: the menu should but doesn't allow you the option to play all the segments of a particular show, a slight nuisance for those wanting to watch "Biskitts", "Flintstone Kids" and "Kwicky Koala" without finding them through the group playback.

The standard black dual Amaray keepcase is held (a little too snugly) inside a cardboard box whose rear artwork differs from that below. As welcome as a show and episode list would have been, there are no inserts provided.

He-Man wasn't the only '80s blonde in possession of a powerful sword. Here, Galtar claims his golden lance. Kwicky Koala wants a treasure hunt partnership and Wilford Wolf does not in the Kwicky Koala Show episode "Robinson Caruso."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Every decade of television has had its share of cartoons and what you consider the best largely hedges on when you grew up.
If you're an '80s child, you should quite enjoy Warner's latest Saturday Morning Cartoons DVD collection. This 4-hour set provides the variety that is missing from most nostalgia-stoking TV animation DVDs. Those who continue to carry a strong fondness for any of these series may be disappointed that season/series sets appear to be off the table. But anyone who likes any of these shows would be foolish to deprive themselves of this terrific presentation and the thrill of sampling these kindred programs they may not remember or have ever heard of. Not all of the series are great and maybe not any of them. But there's lots of fun to be had and here the whole is better than the sum of the parts.

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Reviewed April 22, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1980-1986 Ruby-Spears Enterprises, Inc., 1981-1988 Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., 1988 SEPP S.A., 1988 Martin Short,
and 2010 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.