Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - GILLIGAN'S PLANET and THE DUKES cartoons ""

Monday, August 11, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - GILLIGAN'S PLANET and THE DUKES cartoons

I've gotten to the point now (as I'm sure many folks have) that I can spot a Filmation Studios cartoon pretty quickly. You can see it in the animation style, along with a few regular creature voices (that you'll immediately recognize from FAT ALBERT and HE-MAN) and the oft presence of a laugh track (which, unlike most, I don't mind as much in live-action TV, but I kind of loathe in cartoons). As with almost all Filmation shows, this one features some little creature/animal sidekicks (often voiced by the same dude). The sidekicks here are Bumper, who looks like a baby lizard/dinosaur of some kind. The opening is pretty unforgettable I must say. I mean, admittedly it's pretty hard to top the original theme song to GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, but this new rendition is just a whole other thing entirely:
While watching this show I was struck with the not so revelatory thought of imagining what it must be like to be immortalized as one character for the rest of your life. Bob Denver had a couple things like this in his career, but mostly folks remember him as Gilligan (a select few of us recall his immortal turn as beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on DOBIE GILLIS as well). In an age of splintered television viewership and a deluge of TV shows to watch at any given moment, it's hard to conceive of the old model of three major networks. GILLIGAN'S ISLAND enjoyed solid ratings during it's run on CBS from 1964-1967, but it's funny to think it was only on for three seasons. Like a certain science fiction show, it found a great audience in the 197os when it was put into syndication and played on a lot of stations during the afternoons. Clearly it's syndication run had a huge impact on the show's (and the characters') popularity.  GILLIGAN'S PLANET is the second animated series for The Minnow and it's crew. It was preceded by THE NEW ADVENTURES OF GILLIGAN (1974-77) which, according to the Warner Archive Podcast, is also in the works for DVD and may come out at some point in the future. This first animated series was followed by several made for TV movies like RESCUE FROM GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (1978), THE CASTAWAYS ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (1979) and even THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (1981). All these led up to GILLIGAN'S PLANET in 1982. And Bob Denver would continue to appear off and on as the character (or variations on it) into the 1990s. Talk about an iconic character. At least Denver seemed to have a pleasant attitude about it. I found this interview he did with Rose O'Donnel in 1997 and he's very gracious:
In poking around more on Youtube, I came across an interesting documentary from 2001 called SURVIVING GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, which recaps history of the show and how it came about. I also came across this phone interview where Denver talks about his memories of the show and its critical reception and so forth:
Digging deeper, I found this footage from the GILLIGAN'S ISLAND Reunion from a Late Night TV program in 1988. It features more recollections from Denver and in this case, Alan Hale Jr. As well:
GILLIGAN'S PLANET doesn't tend to come up too often in these recounts, and that may be because the principles would rather forget about it, but who knows. It is certainly an interesting curio and a testament to the enormous popularity of the program and the characters. They clearly did something right or there's no way it would have ever gone this far.

THE DUKES (1983)
It is often quite amusing to see what happens when the cartoon version of a popular television program is sent in a slightly different direction than it's live-action predecessor. In this instance, THE DUKES is basically a WACKY RACES/CANNONBALL RUN type thing. The Duke boys are in a race round the world against Boss Hog and Roscoe P. Coletrain. The winner will get the Duke farm as I understand it. Odd premise, but allows for the basic episodic excursions that highlight the Dukes as good ol boys (never meanin' no harm) and Boss Hog and Roscoe as buffoons.
As with GILLIGAN'S PLANET, this show has a bunch of the live-action cast doing the voice acting. Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke), Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse), James Best (Roscoe), Sorrell Booke (Boss Hog), Bryon Cherry (Coy Duke) and Christopher Mayer (Vance Duke) are among the series regulars to participate. Can I just say that it is a pretty entertaining thing to see Roscoe P. Coletrain as a cartoon character. As cartoonish as Roscoe is at his core, no animator (at least in 1983) could capture the physicality and the signature mugging that James Best did so perfectly. Hanna-Barbera regular Frank Welker is listed as the voicing General Lee, which is awesome. THE DUKES ran on TV in 1983, so it's not inconceivable that a child watching cartoons on a Saturday morning during that time might have watched episodes of these two shows in close succession.
THE DUKES OF HAZARD ran from 1979-1985, also on CBS. The two Duke Boys (Bo and Luke) we most remember were John Schneider and Tom Wopat, and though they were with the show for basically its entire run, there was a brief money dispute (which I've read had to do with merchandising) which led to them walking off the show at the beginning of the 1982-83 season. That's when Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer were brought in. I have no idea, but one could assume that because they were with the live-action version of the show circa 1983 (and Schneider and Wopat were at odds with Warner Brothers TV), that's part of the reason they were also cast in THE DUKES. Regardless, the show itself is an anomaly worth looking at, if you were either a fan of the show or a hardcore 80s cartoon junkie like myself.

Both GILLIGAN'S PLANET and THE DUKES are available on DVD from Warner Archive.

As a little bonus, please enjoy this NBC Promo that I found for Bob Denver's 1982 TV-Movie called SCAMPS, which appears to have been DADDY DAYCARE before that film was ever conceived:

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