Like many of you, I used to plan out my Saturday morning cartoon watching when they would announce the new lineup each year. It all revolved around the Super Friends, which was my jam, and because we were on the west coast, it usually meant being up by 6am to catch my favorite cartoon.
Kids these days have no idea, right?
Towards the end of the summer, I would wait with bated breath for the magic TV guide to come out that would say when all the cartoons would begin showing new episodes again and to see what new ones were added to the mix. It seems like there were a few years when Super Friends would be on ever earlier and I can remember getting up before sunrise to watch my heroes.
I was a huge superhero fan in those days. I had a great collection of action figures and had all the heroes and villains at one point except Wonder Woman and Sue Storm. Not sure why I was against owning the female characters, but I’m guessing it was the 70s and that was not acceptable. Super Friends was a big influence on my fandom, for sure, as there was not a lot of live action options.
When Super Friends started in 1973, I was almost four years old. I have memories of watching that first season and I was hipped to it from Batman and Robin being on Scooby Doo, which I loved, too. I remember being crushed when they cancelled it after the first season, but then being so excited for it when it returned a few years later.
The original show featured Batman, Robin, Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman each week. There was also Marvin and Wendy and Wonder Dog who were the superheroes sidekicks and provided both comic relief and someone for the heroes to save each week. Being a purist, I never really warmed up to the Wonder Twins and their monkey, Gleek, who replaced Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog, when the series returned to TV.
Nothing would replace the memory of that first season, though. There was an episode that featured Green Arrow which was a favorite of mine. As usual, there was a mad scientist involved who created a shrink ray and before too long, all the Super Friends were shrunk down and put in a jar, even Superman. Eventually Green Arrow saves the day, and the heroes get loose from their jars and finally regain their normal size. I’ve loved that episode for 48 years of my life. Hard to wrap the brain around that one. I even bought the first season on DVD years ago just so I could see that episode again.
Another cartoon I loved was Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. This was a spin-off of Scooby Doo and only lasted a season. It was based on the adventures of Dynomutt and his “master,” who was the Blue Falcon. Sure, it was a total Batman rip-off, and had a heavy nod to Space Ghost, but I didn’t care. I loved Space Ghost, too, in all the iterations, but I missed Dynomutt when it was cancelled.
The voice over actors in all those shows were just the best. Saturday morning cartoon voices from the 60s and 70s will always bring a smile to my heart. I wonder if any of those actors, people like Gary Owens, Frank Welker, and Bill Woodson, got paid even a scintilla of what people are making now to do popular cartoons. Even Casey Kasem and Ted Knight were all over the shows I loved. I bet they had a blast making those shows.
As I got older, there was even a Spiderman show that made its way to the Saturday morning mix. I was getting a little bit past the cartoon stage by then, but it was fun. Just like when they added Spiderman to the Arizona Republic’s daily comic pages. I would cut those out of the paper each day and kept a scrapbook of them for a long time. I wish I would have kept those. Not that they would be worth anything to anyone but me, but it would be nice to see them again.
My kids now like their anime and some of the more cutting edge shows that have pretty warped and sometimes wonderful senses of humor, but I wish they would have been able to have cartoon experience those of us in our 40s and 50s had. Those shows were the topic of conversation at school every Monday and then again on Friday when you asked each other what you were going to watch the next morning.
It was always a special treat when you had a sleep over to get to experience the shows with one of your friends. This wasn’t always easy, though, if you both wanted to watch something different that happened to be playing at the same time. There was no way to record the shows in those days and if you slept in or missed one, you would have wait to catch it on reruns later in the year. This meant scouring the TV guide, again, to find out when the episode would air.
I was also a fan of the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, although they were not making new episodes by the time I was paying attention. It was all reruns, but they were hilarious, especially Mr. Peabody. I loved him. Underdog was another one that I loved with all my heart. Someday I will tell the story of Mark H. and I being in San Francisco and seeing a men’s a capella choir doing the Underdog theme in all it’s glory.
Underdog was amazing. Not only were the Underdog stories highly entertaining, like Rocky and Bullwinkle, there were a host of other characters doing funny things in between. Commander McBragg, for example, and the Go Gophers, made me laugh a lot. Still do although I’m sure many folks would “cancel” these shows immediately.
These shows could be found on channel five, I think, in those days because it was still an independent station. All the new cartoons were either ABC, CBS, or NBC. You could even get some cartoons on channel five in those days on Sunday mornings while the others were showing their political shows. Jonny Quest and Underdog and Rocky and Bullwinkle could be enjoyed for a second helping of cartoon fun.
Ah, memory lane.
See you tomorrow.
As I was putting the play list together, I was reminded of so many other shows I loved. HR Pufnstuf, the Groovie Goolies, Huckleberry Hound, Wacky Races, Yogi Bear, Atom Ant (I loved this show!), Laff-a-Lympics (another Scooby vehicle), and Jabberjaw. Such good stuff.
As I got older, I did also enjoy (and still do) things like Danger Mouse, Inspector Gadget, and, of course, Ren and Stimpy. I know there are a ton of newer shows I need to check out, too.