Rupert Pupkin Speaks: The Hanna-Barberians: THUNDARR, WHEELIE, YOUNG SAMSON and SPACE KIDDETTES ""

Monday, January 13, 2014


Years ago I did a list of my favorite childhood cartoons and THUNDARR was on that list:
I was an obsessive cartoon watcher at a young age. I was often glued to the TV from 6:30 AM to Noon on Saturdays and that obsession even carried over into Sundays as well. The Saturday lineup (and what I preferred to watch in it) varied over the years, but that never bothered me. Cartoons ruled Saturday mornings back then (pre-Cartoon Network) and there was never any shortage of stuff to watch. Sundays was a different animal though. On Sundays cartoons were shuffled around, preempted at the drop of a hat by nearly ANY sporting event and general treated poorly. I remember THUNDARR was a Sunday show where I grew up and I also remember being captivated by it from the very beginning. From the open credits:
Thundarr's Sun Sword would appear out of the blackness and the narrator would shout his name. I loved that. I also loved the tale told in that opening sequence. The year was 1994 (!), and a runaway planet passing between the earth and the moon created a veritable complete destruction of civilization. Thundarr's adventures take place 2000 years later in "a world of savagery, super-science and sorcery". I loved that they chose the phrase "super-science". Ooh what's super-science? Beyond science?! 
I can see now what appealed to me about the show. For one I've always loved post-apocalyptic stuff (and I still do). Secondly, the show is so obviously ripping of STAR WARS with it's veritable light saber and with Thundarr's pal Ookla the Mok who is so much like a Wookie it's not even funny. Anyway, it was a dark show for me when I first saw it. The world was very much an evil place in general, like some horrible alternate dimension. There was a sense of dread about it that I think pulled me in somehow. Plus it was just a fun, adventure-y kinda thing and Thundarr was rather fearless which was admirable. Also, Princess Ariel was super cute. It was and favorite back then and still holds a special place in my heart. I've since shown it to both my son when he was younger and also recently to my little girl. All have approved and enjoyed it.
Buy It Here:

Forget about CARS and PLANES, WHEELIE AND THE CHOPPER BUNCH was my first and will always be my favorite talking vehicle universe. Not that John Lasseter needs to throw any credit towards this show as any kind of inspiration for his global franchise, but it would be nice as this show remains a somewhat under-the-radar animal to this very day. Unlike THUNDARR, WHEELIE drove his way into my heart on weeknights via the old USA Cartoon Express showcase. Cartoon Express was a lively dumping ground for Hanna-Barbera syndicated oldies and I owe a good deal of my HB education to that series. As I said, I was quite the cartoon addict as a kid (still love em today) and there came a point when Saturdays and Sundays were not enough and I was craving cartoons every day of the week. USA Cartoon Express was there to oblige and be my savior.
Apparently Wheelie was the first and only Hanna-Barbera series with no humans or animals in it, which is interesting. It was a fun world to enter into certainly and the fact that HB regular voice actors Frank Welker (Fred on SCOOBY-DOO) and Don Messick (Scooby-Doo himself) made it very familar. The fact that these two guys and many others (Daws Butler, John Stephenson etc) regularly populated HB cartoons through the years really made it all feel just like home to me. Been showing my little girl this one too and she seems to dig it pretty good. Recommended.
Buy It Here:

My little girl has taken a shine to a few late 60s era Hanna-Barbera cartoons. She dug THE HERCULOIDS upon first exposure to them and also flipped for the FRANKENSTEIN JR. AND THE IMPOSSIBLES Warner Archive set from a while back and this is a similar format sort of. Similar in that it features multiple segments in one show. In the case of FRANKENSTEIN JR, the first section of any show an adventure with The Impossibles (who I believe were also an influence on a certain Brad Bird) followed by a Frankenstein Jr. adventure in the middle with another impossibles tacked on the end. She really seemed to dig the variety of that setup. In the case of this set, there it's a half and half split - one Space Kidettes followed by one Young Samson. I'm still trying to figure out what it is about 60s era HB cartoons that appeals to her and I think it might have something to do with a certain seriousness that a lot of them have (with the exception of THE SPACE KIDDETTES - who just seems like comic fugitives from THE JESTONS). Even though they have lighter moments, Hanna-Barbera often established a tone of danger that could be felt during an episode of THE HERCULOIDS or YOUNG SAMSON wherein we know our heroes are probably going to be ok, but they are often met with and challenged by some fairly ugly and destructive beast that isn't just going to go away on its own. I think she's also in a very pro-super heroes and super powers kind of phase right now so The Impossibles and Young Samson fit the bill perfectly (both sets get my recommend for those looking to show something a bit more off the beaten path to their kids).
Buy It Here:

No comments: