Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Warner Archive Grab Bag: Cartoons! CAPTAIN CAVEMAN, SNORKS, INCH HIGH PRIVATE EYE & THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS ""

Monday, September 9, 2013


Without fail, anyone who remembers Captain Caveman(affectionately called "Cavey" by his Teen Angels) will typically launch into the "Captaaaain Caaaavemaaaaan!" yell at the very mention of the old Hanna Barbera classic. It's a compulsion I can't help myself. That yell, so wonderfully realized and executed by the immortal Mel Blanc, is so wonderful and so memorable that we all seem to have really latched onto it. Mel Blanc is a god to me. The first time I saw the man of 1000 voices I was immediately taken with him. It just blew my mind that this one gentleman could be responsible for so many iconic cartoon voices. So neat. Anyway, for some reason, I had somehow not realized that he was, in addition to all his Looney Tunes work and so much else was also Captain Caveman himself. It was a great moment of stupidity on my part. Because when I thought about it and listened to the voice, it was so distinctly Blanc-ian that there could be no other originator.
I believe I first came to CAPTAIN CAVEMAN via USA Network's Cartoon Express program. I've mentioned this show before as it was a true touchstone for me. It was a remarkably wonderful dumping ground for tons and tons of Hanna-Barbera syndicated programming. What a great show. One thing I began to notice the more I watched all these HB cartoons was the obvious fact that so many of them were simple SCOOBY DOO knockoffs. CAPTAIN CAVEMAN is no exception. In watching the show my 4 year old daughter(who is a big HB fan because of her dad) even she noticed very quickly that "this show is like SCOOBY DOO!". The Teen Angels all but say the classic SCOOBY line , "looks like we've got another mystery on our hands". Regardless, Cavey himself is too iconic a character for one not to enjoy the show. Was near to see my little girl respond to him. I really do have a soft spot for those rightfully beloved Hanna Barbera creations.

I used to always think of this show as 'Underwater Smurfs' but my memory of it became so vague at a certain point(I don't think I'd seen the show since circa 1985 or so) that that's really the only thing that remained as a descriptor if the show ever came up randomly in conversation. In revisiting it, while there is a bit of 'Underwater Smurfs' to it, SNORKS was much stranger and more surreal than I would have ever imagined. Maybe I'm just a silly fellow, but watching the first episode, which had a plot line that dealt with basically re-igniting the 'pilot light' of this steam vent that heated the Snork village, I was genuinely perplexed. Not annoyed or anything, but I kept saying to myself, "what is going on with this show?". I'm sure when I rewatch it, all will be perefectly clear, but for the moment I was oddly transfixed by the show. I even began to analyze the lighting and animation. At one point, I swore I saw some Ralph Bakshi influence. I'd really like to think the SNORKS has some Bakshi influence. In fact, I was just thinking about potential influences on Hanna Barbera productions in general over the years. Did their creative folks see avant garde animated films like those of Bakshi and others and try to incorporate any stylistic things into their shows? I'm very curious about that. All that rambling aside, SNORKS is a fun show with a voice cast of many familiar Hanna Barbera regulars and I found it to be quite pleasant. My daughter and I will return to it with some regularity I think. 

Welcome to the seedy underbelly of Hanna Barbera. A place where the dames are tough and the dicks are small. Private dicks that is. Welcome to the world of Inch High Private Eye. Sorry for the bad pun, but I couldn't help myself. Whilst watching INCH HIGH, I thought immediately of HONG KONG PHOOEY. While Lennie Weinrib(who voiced Inch High) was a far cry from the cache of cool that Scatman Crothers was, I still found some similarities in the crime solving aspects of the show and the silliness of the villains that both Hong Kong Phooey and Inch High found themselves at odds with. Weinrib seemed to obviously be aping Don Adam's GET SMART voice(and persona) a bit in his characterization of Inch. I knew his voice sounded familiar, but I didn't realize he was also one if the voices for Scrappy Doo(one of my least favorite HB characters). Perhaps it's fitting that my initial re-assessment of the show was to call in "Scrappy Doo meets COLUMBO". I stand by that. I think it works.

If you ever wondered, 'what would the Flinstones or the Jetsons be like in Ancient Rome?', then The Roman Holidays is your answer. I hate to think of the Hanna Barbera creative team as lazy, but let's face it, they were like any big Hollywood studio in that respect. They seemed to be in a constant state of ripping themselves off in an attempt to re-create former successes. To be fair though, they were around for such a long time creating cartoons and their audience was often in a state of outgrowing their material so it makes sense they'd go back to the same well over and over. So ROMAN HOLIDAYS is very FLINTSTONES. Feels kind of uninspired in parts, but I'm such a sucker for the Hanna Barbera universe that it didn't really bother me too much.
Speaking of ripping themselves off, I still cannot wait for Warner Archive to put out my favorite SCOOBY-DOO knockoff - CLUE CLUB. Here's hoping it happens next year!


Tommy Ross said...

Ahhh man, where's Dasterdly & His Flying Squadron!?

Unknown said...

It's highly true that Hanna Barbera were big on reusing formulas but they were really got at it. But in the same breath it's ridiculous to fault them for it. It's not like their animation contemporaties weren't different. We plainly see for example most of Disney's output is sanitized fairytales and most of the Looney Tunes were predator/prey shenanigans. How is the majority of Hanna Barbera being able to classified into sub-groups a bad thing? As Rupert asserts, it's not a bad thing

I grew up in the 90s with most of these shows in healthy re-runs and even then i could see how there were similarities in Scooby, Captain Caveman, Josie etc, but it never bothered me because they all worked and now as a 20 year old man they still work and make me laugh all the more.

I'm really grateful the majority of this library is in the hands of Warner Brothers. Seeing all these great memories and fun programs sitting on my shelf is a sight i enjoy. And i get a little buzz whenever i read another one announced.

I hope all their work does go to continue to spread these shows to future generations. As while a portion of the internet may want to pretend otherwise, it makes me feel in good company to see such support for Hanna Barbera's stable of characters on facebook and twitter today. It's a testament to just how good they were.

Rupert Pupkin said...

I absolutely love pretty much every Hanna Barbera cartoon I watched as a kid or am just now discovering via these great Warner Archive collections. My little girl(4 yrs old) has been completely indoctrinated into the HB fan club already and seems to love every one of their shows I put in front of her. It gives me an extra added boost of joy to see each new set announced because I look forward to sharing it with her. Timeless classic cartoons for sure.