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Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series DVD Review

Buy Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series DVD from Amazon.com Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series (1966-68)
Show & DVD Details

Producers/Directors: Joseph Barbera, William Hanna / Story Directors: Lew Marshall, Paul Sommer, Bill Perez / Story: Walter Black, Bill Hamilton

Voice Cast: Don Messick (Blip, Bronto, Zorak), Ginny Tyler (Jan, Black Widow), Gary Owens (Space Ghost, Narrator), Tim Matthieson (Jace), Michael Road (Ugh), Johnny Carson (Dino Boy, Cyclo) / Uncredited: Vic Perrin (Creature King, Lurker), Ted Cassidy (Metallus), Keye Luke (Brak), Alan Reed (Glasstor)

Running Time: 421 Minutes (20 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Originally Aired September 10, 1966 - September 16, 1967
DVD Release Date: July 17, 2007 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.98
Two double-sided discs (DVD-14s) / Slim four-sided Digipak with cardboard slipcover

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Most people today probably associate Space Ghost with the long-running Cartoon Network series "Space Ghost: Coast to Coast."
From 1994 to 2004, 98 episodes were produced of that 11-minute comedy show, which found the masked, caped, robust title character serving as a talk show host who "interviewed" well over 100 terrestrial celebrities as diverse as Jim Carrey, Willie Nelson, Charlton Heston, Hulk Hogan, and Beck. "Coast to Coast" is as well-known as Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's popular, ongoing late night programming block, which the show was a precursor to and founding member of.

It may surprise some that the character of Space Ghost was introduced nearly thirty years before "Coast to Coast" debuted, as the star of 1966's "Space Ghost and Dino Boy", a half-hour series created by Alex Toth and both produced and directed by TV animation gurus William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Though the title suggests a superhero and sidekick saga, "Space Ghost" and "Dino Boy" (or as it's more fully titled "Dino Boy in the Lost Valley") are two completely different series, which only had makers and a timeslot in common. Each episode of the show is made up of two "Space Ghost" tales, with a "Dino Boy" story in between them.

In his mannerisms and dialog delivery, the authoritative intergalactic crimefighter Space Ghost closely resembles Adam West's Batman and William Shatner's Captain Kirk, two other iconic TV characters introduced the same year. Space Ghost patrols the universe in his Phantom Cruiser, eliminating an assortment of villains who threaten all with elaborate evil plans. On his side are a pair of good-natured young human adults named Jan and Jace, who we eventually learn are twin siblings and Space Ghost's wards, confirming our suspicions. Rounding out the good guys and often accompanying Jan and Jace in their space coupe is a squeaky monkey named Blip, who gets to play unexpected hero on a fairly regular basis.

"Dino Boy in the Lost Valley" stars Dino Boy, a freckled, redheaded contemporary lad who we're told survived an airplane crash but landed in a "mysterious prehistoric valley." There, he's befriended Ugh, an inarticulate but resourceful caveman and a pet brontosaurus named Bronto, who makes noises just like Scooby-Doo (who Don Messick would similarly voice beginning three years later). Their homeland is fraught with peril. Most of their neighbors are giant insects, unfriendly dinosaurs, savage humans, or anthropomorphic mutant reptiles. There is also a regular threat of human sacrifices. It'd be some pretty scary stuff if it weren't played in such a kid-friendly fashion, which includes Dino Boy announcing absolutely everything he does.

The title screen for "Space Ghost", whose stories make up two-thirds of "Space Ghost & Dino Boy." The title card for "Dino Boy in the Lost Valley" appears at the start of its segment, which provides the center of 9/10ths of the episodes on this set.

Distinct formulas for each of the two shows emerge quite quickly. In "Space Ghost", Jan and Jace typically get in trouble and it's up to Space Ghost to save them once he is contacted via the silhouette button on his team's suits. The immaculate hero is nigh-invincible and he boasts just about every kind of super force imaginable: heat force, freeze force, energy force, megaton force, you name it. With a mere pressing of his forearms' power bands, Space Ghost renders villains' laser beams, paralyzer rays, destroy rays, etc. impotent. When needed, Jan, Jace, Blip, and Space Ghost can also use their inviso power, which not only saved the animators time and effort on coloring (by turning the characters into mere outlines) but also confuses most evildoers as to their whereabouts. Once in a while, the standard procedure is reversed and Space Ghost becomes the endangered character, but things still play out in just about the same way.

"Dino Boy" installments also adhere to the danger-rescue structure, with Dino Boy typically getting trapped and Ugh doing the rescuing, with an occasional switch or altogether variation. Like Blip, Bronto gets to provide non-speaking comic relief.

In each series, dialog explains everything -- including the perfectly obvious -- in very clear terms. With all spelled out in speech, the blind need no special audio track to get nearly as much out of the series as those seeing it. In 1966, however, the visuals may have dazzled the senses of viewers tuning in on Saturday mornings, especially those who were treated to the show in color, a fairly new phenomenon. (The 1966-67 season was the first to boast a full color primetime lineup, though color TVs wouldn't surpass black & white ones for another few years.) By today's standards, they appear to be fairly ordinary budget cartoons from Hanna-Barbera at a time when the company was pushing its production slate as never before. While characters regularly fall off-model, there truly is a sense of vitality among the visuals and cost-cutting doesn't noticeably hinder the narratives.

As they often do, Space Ghost, Jan, Jace, and Blip share a little laugh in the Phantom Cruiser. He looks like he's 15, he acts like he's 6. The over-explanatory Dino Boy makes a tough face atop his pet brontosaurus Bronty.

As it is, this is not the most inspired or sophisticated form of storytelling. It is definitely diverting in a relaxing Saturday morning kind of way, where attentions move from one universe to another, with genuinely exciting toy and cereal commercials in between.
But viewed in succession at a time when heroes and villains are required to have layers of complexity, "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" feels pretty slight. Not a lot can be achieved in 6-minute segments, so it's not overly surprising that these episodes run with their respective formulas again and again and again. But in doing that, we're treated to simple, straightforward good vs. evil tales with narrow escapes and open-ended victories.

Many of those who grew up with this program and shows like it will probably defend their merits. And truly, there are some simple pleasures to the show's design and execution which go beyond mere nostalgia. Both shows are funny, not deliberately so but also not because of a lack of quality. It's just an amusing style of animation, which has been parodied in things like "Saturday Night Live"'s TV Funhouse cartoons. There are some cheesy one-liners, lively taunts delivered with no sense of irony, and just an interesting roster of villains.

"Space Ghost" especially stands out for its curious cast of baddies, who are frequently left awaiting justice by an unseen Galactic Patrol. Bug-like and robotic baddies are the most common. Similar character design and often one-time employment ensures that only a few of the dozens of opponents make much of an impression. Nevertheless, much of this class was decades later put to use comedically for the mock talk show "Coast to Coast." The mantis-like Zorak became bandleader, masked containment suit wearer Moltar assumed a producer's role, and the catty Brak would even get his own Adult Swim spin-off ("The Brak Show"). While characters like these aren't mined for their comedic worth on "Space Ghost", the groundwork for humor is in place. In taking its simple self seriously, "Space Ghost" is ripe for revisiting for laughs, although is best to be enjoyed in small doses rather than bulk viewing with timely analysis in mind.

Floating in inviso power, Jan, Jace, and Blip save the animators time and money while also eluding villains who can't detect them. Batter up! Ugh prepares to club a giant evil bat.

Faced with dwindling lists of unreleased content ten years into the still-cherished DVD format, Warner Brothers has dipped into its vast catalog of animated television programming more readily than other studios. In doing so, Warner has granted new life to many yesteryear cartoons under the banner "Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection." These have included season sets of enduring favorites like "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?", "The Flintstones", and "The Jetsons." They've also covered short-lived, lesser-known works like "Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines", "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop", and "Magilla Gorilla." "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" resides somewhere in between the two classes, its characters being familiar to modern audiences but this incarnation of them not so much so.

Released last week alongside the fellow comedically-tapped-for-Adult Swim '60s Hanna-Barbera toon "Birdman & the Galaxy Trio", "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" arrives in a Complete Series set, which serves up all twenty 21-minute episodes across two discs. With 84 minutes of content per layer of these double-sided discs, compression is pretty much a non-issue, though so is disc art.

"Space Ghost" spent two full years airing on CBS at 10:30 on Saturday mornings. Its DVD release distinguishes it from its contemporaries, though looking at those, especially fellow Hanna-Barbera productions, highlights potential candidates for DVD issuance. In its first season, "Space Ghost" was sandwiched between "Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles" and "The New Adventures of Superman." For the rerun-laden second season (which only produced two original episodes), it followed "Shazzan!" and preceded "Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor", two Hanna-Barbera properties that crossed over in late segments of "Space Ghost."
In its debut season, "Space Ghost" competed with sophomore cartoon "The Beatles" on ABC and Hanna-Barbera's short-lived "Space Kidettes" on NBC. The 1967-68 season pitted "Space Ghost" against other one-season series, Flimation's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and H-B's "Samson & Goliath."

Each of the first 15 episodes of "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" runs roughly 21 minutes and 5 seconds. Breakdown within these shows is consistently as follows: first "Space Ghost" episode (7:15), "Dino Boy" episode (6:50), second "Space Ghost" episode (6:20), and end credits for both (0:40). The 25-second "Dino Boy" opening is dropped for episodes 16-18, and then "Dino Boy" as a series is dropped altogether for the two Season 2 episodes. Camp value skyrockets for these second season shows, which are more like a mini-series than anything else, with six continuous segments forming two half-hour episodes that find the six quirky members of the Council of Doom taking turns at defeating Space Ghost. Online episode guides vary widely for "Space Ghost", though most seem to agree that the original air date order and episode alignment differed from what is presented here. Nevertheless, all of "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" is provided.

Lava-throwing The Heat Thing is the first of many opponents of Space Ghost. Black Widow, later known as The Spider Woman, torments Space Ghost while wielding his power bands. Dino Boy and Ugh look down to see Moss Men on the offensive.

Disc 1 - Side A

1. The Heat Thing / The Worm People / Zorak (21:06)
A lava bomb-throwing fire monster threatens Jace; worm people take Dino Boy prisoner; Zorak breaks out of prison and takes Jan and Jace hostage to get to Space Ghost and claim revenge.

2. Creature King / The Treemen / The Lizard Slavers (21:06)
Jan, Jace, and Blip get pulled onto a planet where they face a giant ape, giant bats, and the evil genius controlling both; Dino Boy is endangered when Treemen take him prisoner; flying off-course, Jan and Jace get captured by reptilian intergalactic slave traders.

3. The Web / The Sacrifice / Homing Device (21:07)
On the planet Telus, Space Ghost gets trapped by Black Widow; Dino Boy must save Ugh from human sacrifice by the Sun People; metal monster Metallus leads Space Ghost to his secret hideout of doom.

4. The Drone / The Moss Men / The Sandman (21:04)
The Phantom Cruiser gets stolen by a mysterious robot; Dino Boy is kidnapped by Moss Men and taken to their cave; using clouds of sand to disturb desert soldiers, The Sandman brings Space Ghost to his lair and terrorizes with brain control.

Giant Ants threaten Dino Boy in "Giant Ants." Brak and his twin brother Sisto create trouble for Jan and Space Ghost in "The Lure." Ugh, Dino Boy, and their new pal Goom-wah (center) face Danger River with a club, a raft, and good spirits.

Disc 1 - Side B

5. The Robot Master / Marooned / The Energy Monster (21:04)
Metallus uses a robot fleet to take over Ghost Planet; to cure Ugh's poisonous wasp sting, Dino Boy must brave danger to obtain chocha leaves from the perilous Mist Island; Space Ghost fights energy with energy when a powerful monster threatens all.

6. Hi-Jackers / Giant Ants / The Lure (21:05)
In trying to stop space hijackers, Jace and Jan must delay danger until Space Ghost can arrive; an assortment of supersized insects pose trouble for Dino Boy; cat-like villains Sisto and Brak plot to capture Jan as bait for Space Ghost.

7. The Schemer / The Rock Pygmies / The Evil Collector (21:05)
Evil mastermind The Schemer plots the demise of Space Ghost and friends with robot-controlled cruisers; a saber-tooth tiger and hostile Rock Pygmies chase after Dino Boy and Bronty; The Evil Collector tricks Space Ghost, Jace, and Jan onto his planet, where he shrinks them down to play prey for Dracto, his 8-legged cat.

8. Lokar - King of the Killer Locusts / Danger River / Brago (21:06)
Impersonating Space Ghost, Lokar sics his metal-eating space locusts on Jan and Jace, then targets Space Ghost himself; in saving a boy from people hunters, Dino Boy and Ugh must sail down a very dangerous river; an alien boy enlists Space Ghost to help save his family from Brago and his henchmen.

Jan and Jace shiver in a severe temperature drop that Space Ghost suspects The Iceman is behind. The 12th century Viking Tarko the Terrible squares off with Space Ghost in "The Time Machine." Metallus gives Space Ghost a formal introduction to his formidable army of metal men.

9. The Cyclopeds / The Fire God / Space Sargasso (21:06)
With cyclopeds, a maze, and the rolling cyclo terror, monotone baddie Cyclo captures and terrorizes Jan and Jace; Dino Boy needs saving when he's taken inside the saber-toothed people's slave-powered Fire God; evil fish One Eye and Lurker wreak havoc for the gang on an underwater adventure.

10. The Iceman / The Vampire Men / The Time Machine (21:06)
Perplexed by plummeting temperatures, Space Ghost and friends trace an ice ray back to Zeron; a kite-flying accident leaves Dino Boy in the company of the dreaded bat-like Vampire Men; tinkering with a time machine leads Jan and Jace back to the 12th century, where Viking Tarko the Terrible tries to enslave them.

11. The Space Birds / The Wolf People / Attack of the Saucer Crab (21:07)
Metal birds target the space coupe's satellites and lead Space Ghost to their master's planet; Dino Boy must rescue Ugh when he is kidnapped by Wolf People; a mysterious, destructive flying saucer disturbs Jan, Jace, and Blip.

12. Nightmare Planet / Valley of the Giants / Space Armada (21:08)
Dr. Nightmare mimics the imprisoned Jace to lure Space Ghost to his danger-filled planet; panic during an earthquake puts Bronto in giant trouble; Metallus introduces Space Ghost to his innovative new metal men.

Zorak and a relative who closely resembles him monitor Space Ghost's actions in "The Challenge." Wielding both an arrow and a club, Ugh must learn versatility in his arsenal when battling a pterodactyl. Mere dragon's fire can do no harm to Space Ghost.

Disc 2 - Side A

13. Ruler of the Rock Robots / The Bird Riders / The Challenge (21:05)
A trap leads Jan and Jace into the hands of the cunning Zorket; Dino Boy and Ugh protect a downed bird rider from Rock Pygmy attack; Space Ghost agrees to a high stakes duel with Zorak's monstrous robot Titanor.

14. Jungle Planet / The Marksman / Revenge of the Spider Woman (21:06)
Space Ghost tries to rescue genius Professor Corbac from the evil Mindtrapper; Ugh learns to be flexible in his weaponry when battling dinosaurs on land and in the sky; Lizard Slavers use a shark-like submarine to disturb Jan and Jace's water-skiing while Spider Woman tortures Space Ghost underwater.

15. The Space Ark / The Terrible Chase / Glasstor (21:05)
Space Ghost and company again wrestle with the Creature King and the odd assortment of fierce things that he commands; a pair of lizard hounds pursues Dino Boy and Ugh; Jan and Jace are taken prisoner in a glass mine.

16. The Space Piranhas / The Spear Warriors / The Sorcerer (20:34)
With Space Ghost incapacitated, Jan and Jace travel to Piranhor's planet; Ugh accepts a challenge from undefeated warrior Boltar; Space Ghost squares off with The Sorcerer's formidable animal task force.

Master matter transporter Transor has got Jace and Jan exactly where he wants them. Mightor and pet dinosaur Tog (from fellow late-'60s Hannah-Barbera series "Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor", help Space Ghost in the "Clutches of Creature King" installment. Members of the Council of Doom unite to defeat their common foe (Space Ghost). From left to right, Zorak, Brak, Metallus, Moltar, Creature King, and Spider Woman stand proud.

17. The Ovens of Moltor / The Art Warrors / Transor - The Matter Mover (20:38)
Moltar introduces Jan, Jace, and Space Ghost to his molten men; Ugh is tied down and taken prisoner by warrior ants; what Jan and Jace think is a drifting communication satellite is really a matter transporter that puts them in Transor's custody.

18. The Looters / The Mighty Snow Creature / The Gargoyloids (20:35)
After Brak and Sisto pirate another gold shipment, Jan and Blip unexpectedly find their hideout; to rescue a captured girl, Dino Boy and Ugh follow a snow creature to his chilly mountaintop home; Space Ghost and company are trapped amidst scavenger Gargoyloids on an uncharted planet.

19. The Meeting / Clutches of Creature King / The Deadly Trap (21:08)
The new, extremely short-lived season yields a format change, as this episode is composed of three linked "Space Ghost" segments. After a number of previously-seen villains form the Council of Doom, members take turns trying to eliminate Space Ghost. Metallus, Creature King, and Zoltar make the first strikes, with Space Ghost making a brief trip back in time, to another Hannah-Barbera universe, along the way.

20. The Molten Monsters of Moltar / Two Faces of Doom / The Final Encounter (21:12)
Picking up where the previous episode left off, Moltar, Spider Woman, and Brak each try to rid the world of Space Ghost. Another new Hannah-Barbera series, "Shazzan", gets exposure via a crossover in these parts.

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Space Ghost deflects some would-be imposing rays, presumably with one of his many force powers. In a sight that's all too common, Space Ghost rescue an imprisoned Jace and Jan.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Space Ghost & Dino Boy" is presented in its native 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio. The element tends to be a little dirty throughout, with white scratches and specks appearing quite frequently and stationary pieces of dirt occasionally lingering on the cels. The picture can be a little jumpy
and sometimes can look very worn, typically in the Dino Boy episodes. Colors seem to vary, even comparing the opening title sequence of one Dino Boy episode to another. Don't let these issues overly frighten you; the series is still very easily watchable and not at all like a public domain release of something from the same era. There's definitely substantial room for improvement, but then this isn't the type of program you'd expect to get a drastic digital overhaul. Its cultural significance is somewhat minor and the fact that it's available on DVD at all is slightly surprising.

There's less of concern to the soundtrack, a single-channel Dolby Mono track, which once turned up in volume comes through consistently and clearly, albeit with the expected limitations of the format.

Appearing in Disc 2's feature-length Alex Toth documentary "Simplicity" are the artist's four children: Dana Palmer, Carrie Morash, Eric Toth and Damon Toth. Space Ghost claims the foreground in the musical Main Menu that adorns three of the four disc sides. Ugh rides Bronty on the Episodes menu, Disc 2, Side A, Page 2.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, DESIGN and PACKAGING

Found on the second side of Disc 2 is the only real bonus,
the 16x9 feature-length documentary "Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth" (1:18:45). A retrospective biography, this expansive piece doesn't spend much time on "Space Ghost & Dino Boy", instead choosing to focus on the life at large of the series' creator. That life becomes increasingly interesting in readings of Toth's own words and recollections from colleagues, fans, comic historians, friends, and his four grown-up kids. It does demand a substantial time investment and in its first half nearly requires a passion for comic books, but eventually a human interest aspect emerges which all viewers can appreciate. Covered in the documentary are Toth's Manhattan upbringing, Army stint, swashbuckling inspirations, design work on DC comics and Hannah-Barbera cartoons, postcard correspondences, harsh critical reactions, and reclusive twilight. Anyone with a strong interest in the work of Toth, who died last year, should love this well-produced, encompassing documentary.

Also on Disc 2 Side B and rounding out the set are trailers for "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home": The Complete First Season (1:21), Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938, Volume 1 (1:50), and the box sets of Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection, "Space Ghost & Dino Boy", "Birdman & The Galaxy Trio" (1:20).

Those low on shelf space should appreciate how "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" is packaged, in a compact cardboard box that's thinner than even a standard keepcase. Inside is a slim Digipak which overlaps the two discs and contains a list of episodes.

Practicality is also employed for the discs' menus. Each static Main Menu features the same "Space Ghost" imagery while playing his theme song. The silent episode menus alternate between Space Ghost and Dino Boy artwork.

Each episode is appropriately divided into four chapter stops, allowing quick access to each segment and the end credits. Those wishing to skip just the 55-second ("Space Ghost") and 30-second ("Dino Boy") opening title sequences may be disappointed by the inability to do so, but I think they'll survive the 2-3 seconds needed to fast-forward through these introductions.

Space Ghost pushes the button that depicts his silhouette, allowing him to communicate with Jan and Jace. The End. Ugh, Dino Boy, and Bronto strike a pose in this self-explanatory closing screen.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Forty years since first airing, "Space Ghost & Dino Boy" registers as a talkative, repetitive series which only mildly varies the formulas of its two unrelated universes over the course of dozens of 6-minute installments. With a lack of moral complexities, character development, and even establishment of personality, this '60s Hanna-Barbera series does seem pretty thin by comparison to today's heroes and villains fare. Still, there is a definite sense of simple, lightweight fun to the proceedings that is sure to be noticed even by first-time viewers.

Warner's two-disc set leaves room for improvement in the picture and sound departments, but the modest list price and inclusion of the thorough feature-length Alex Toth documentary (that might attract some fans on its own) do a bit to make up for that. Those with clear, fond memories of enjoying the show on Saturday mornings in the late 1960s probably need no encouragement to revisit it. Meanwhile, those who have enjoyed Space Ghost's more recent run as a Cartoon Network talk show host will probably get a kick out of seeing the character's origins here. Though the genre, format, and tone are all quite different, there's still comedic value to Space Ghost's broad heroics against the quirky foes that would form his "Coast to Coast" counterparts.

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Reviewed July 26, 2007.



Text copyright 2007 UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1966-67 Hanna-Barbera and 2007 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.