Friday, April 24, 2009

Cartoon Favorites from the Saturday Morning Cartoons of the 1970s

This was inspired by something I saw on Facebook recently, where you're supposed to give your five favorite cartoon shows from when you were growing up. Well, I thought, "There's no way I can limit it to five!" and wrote this up instead. Indeed, I had to limit this to just Saturday morning cartoons, which eliminated Speed Racer. Thanks to the miracle of re-runs, though, I was able to include some classics from the '60s that I still grew up with.

1964–1966 -
This show, especially in its premiere episode, is actually pretty insulting to the superhero genre. Superheroes are shown to be bumblingly destructive, inexplicably adored by the public, and challenged by puzzles that a kid viewer can solve long before Underdog can. And yet, the show was done with such charm and the lampooning so subtle, that I still like this show.
1967 –
Some kids like Space Ghost best. Me? I liked the Herculoids. Oh no, not for the human cast. You could dump them in a heartbeat and I wouldn’t bat an eye. No, it was Igoo, Gloop, and Gleep that you watched the Herculoids for. Oh yeah.
What do you get when you give Ralph Bakshi a stack of comic books, trip him out on acid, and give him a limited budget? Only one unbeatable superhero cartoon with its own unique character unrivalled until Batman the Animated Series.
1968 -
Banana Splits
There were cartoon shorts, but even as I kid I knew those were lame. But guys dressed up in goofy mascot costumes doing short visual gags? I couldn’t get enough of it.
1969 –
Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
The original three seasons have never been surpassed by later incarnations. This show may have more camp humor appeal today, but this defined what was “edgy” and “darkly atmospheric” for cartoons circa 1970.
1973 –
Multiplication Rock/Schoolhouse Rock
Has any kid since the 1970s made it through school without the benefit of these amazing cartoon shorts? Shouldn’t all classes be taught via jingles by now?
1977 -
Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics
Bizarrely anticipating the entire reality TV show craze, this series had almost the entirety of Hanna-Barbera’s stable of characters competing in teams against each other. And was more interesting than all the live action reality TV shows (and cartoons based on the reality TV genre) to come.
1978 -
Challenge of the Superfriends
The Superfriends had been on TV for awhile by this point, but this is where it got bad guys. The Legion of Doom was more evil than had ever been seen on children’s programming before.
Fantastic Four
Storyboarded by Lee and Kirby themselves, this series was, in its own way, as faithful an adaptation of the comic book series as the earlier Hanna-Barbera version. To the Human Torch’s eternal embarrassment, he was replaced by Herbie the Robot and I never even missed him.
Godzilla Power Hour
My introduction to the Japanese monster genre. I was hugely into dinosaurs at the time and couldn’t get enough of episodes that had actual dinosaurs in them (though I was never, ever able to watch Land of the Lost and its cheesy special effects).
Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. A long forgotten cartoon and probably for good reason, though it introduced me to what I had missed on the adult program, Laugh-In (the first of many shows to steal from Laugh-In, most notably Nickelodeon’s pre-Spongebob main show, You Can’t Do that on Television). Indirectly, the Baggy Pants character introduced me to Charlie Chaplin.

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