Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Hanna-Barberians - Only in the 80s: Mister T, Dragon's Lair & Sky Commanders ""

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hanna-Barberians - Only in the 80s: Mister T, Dragon's Lair & Sky Commanders

Mister T  (1983)
The one and only Mr. T stars in this cartoon as the coach of a globe-trotting gymnastics team with a tendency towards getting involved in and solving various mysteries along the way. Very much the Scooby Doo paradigm, but a bit darker and with no cute animal for comic relief (though there is a young boy who dresses and speaks like Mr. T and he's pretty funny). Each episode begins with a live-action introduction segment featuring Mr. T himself to give the low down on the episode you're about to watch. At the end of each show, Mr. T returns with a 'what have we learned' type moral from the episode to discuss. There's also a dog with a mohawk (non-coherent) and a whole lot of gymnastics and acrobatics used in each episode to foil the bad guys' plans.
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Dragon's Lair (1984)
Cartoon show based on the popular laserdisc-based animated arcade game of the same name. I remember being completely floored the first time I got a glimpse of Dirk the Daring rendered in Don Bluth's wonderful animation style. It was just jaw-dropping and seemed out of place in the Aladdin's Castle I was used to. I remember it being difficult as hell to play so my experience with the game was mostly limited to watching it in attract mode and watching others play it. So pretty to look at. The cartoon show was less pretty and missing the sheen of that lovely Bluth animation, but it was nonetheless intriguing to me. It was also around this time that the Saturday Supercade cartoon was starting to appear as well. That show was neat in that it was a mix of several arcade game characters in short segments, while Dragon's Lair was just one thing. It did have an interesting conceit though in that the show would have these 'Choose Your Own Adventure' type moments peppered throughout. Dirk the Daring would be faced with a scenario in which a few decisions were possible and you the viewer would be asked "What would you choose?" just before going to commenerisl. After the break, you would be shown what would have happened with each of the possible choices.
I was curious to see what my little girl would think of it. She was unfamiliar with the arcade game (though I had shown her many others), but it had a princess in it so I thought that might appeal to her. It did, as did the choosing what to do bits as well. 
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Sky Commanders (1987)
This is an odd one for sure. A group of  mountaineering specialist soldiers from across the world square off against the evil General Lucas Plague and his squadron of dastardly mercenaries (calling themselves "The Raiders") whose aim is global domination of course. The setting is a new continent (which they all call 'The High Frontier') in the South Pacific which has come into existence because a new, unstable and deadly radioactive element called Phaeta Seven has prodded its way through the earth's crust (making lots of mountains and stuff which descend into abysses). It reminds me a little bit of that G.I. Joe miniseries where the Joes and Cobra are competing to try and get all the special elements from all over the place. And jist like the places the Joes and Cobra had to go to collect the parts of the weather dominating device, The High Frontier is prone to highly dangerous weather conditions, landslides, earthquakes, cave-ins, whirlpools, and so forth. A veritable cornucopia of Irwin Allen delicacies. Both our heroes and The Raiders can only travel around The High Frontier via jet pack dealies and the use of 'laser cables' which allow them to ride from peak to peak via energy beams which shoot out of the soldiers' ginormous backpacks. Sound strange yet? Oh I forgot to mention the mutant monsters that occasionally crop up due to exposure the the aforementioned radioactive element. It all just kind feels like some toy creators were watching a commercial that featured some G.I. Joe guys using grappling hooks and were somehow inspired to try to create a world and characters based on that. It's hard not to think that some drugs were perhaps involved as much or more so than with any other wacky cartoon adventure ever created by humans. If ever there was a "WTF" cartoon, this is it. A very interesting curio nonetheless and unlike shows like M.A.S.K. and the like, this one seems nearly completely forgotten.
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