The greatest series in the history of TV is finally getting a little love on DVD. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was a massive sensation to a little kid back in the day. Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky were bigger than the Jonas Brothers and more emotive. After years of waiting for a complete collection, there’s a flicker of hope with the first episode being part of Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970s Volume 2. They are rocking out along with quite a few other animated oddities that taste well with a bowl brimming with Crunchberries.
Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch starred a bear with a massive perm and funky vest, scarf and belt. His two pals and him lived in a high tech cave in the zoo. “Keep Your Keeper” was the first episode. One of the keepers is voiced by Joe E. Ross (Car 54, Where Are You). This is just pure ’70s goofiness as it mixes Hogan’s Heroes with the get rich quick schemes of The Honeymooners. New Adventures of Gilligan animated the iconic series most of the original castaways voiced their cartoon counterparts except for Ginger and Mary Ann. “Off Limits” has Gilligan duped into building the Howells an exclusive golf course. If they could build a putting green, why couldn’t they come up with a raft?
Sea Lab 2020 is best known for being parodied in Adult Swim’s Sea Lab 2021. “Deep Threat” is hard to watch without thinking of Erik Estrada’s voice coming out of Marco’s mouth. It’s rather bland with its message about protecting the ocean. If you turn down the volume, you can make your own version of Sea Lab 2021. Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan featured the legendary crime fighter (Keye Luke) and his kids (including Jodie Foster). “The Mardi Gras Caper” has the kids singing in New Orleans while dad protects an expensive piece of jewelry. Their crime solving van turns into different cars. You might want to add rice wine to your Frosted Flakes to get the full effect. Shazzan starts with Chuck and Nancy letting a genie out of a pair of magic rings. He gives them a flying camel so they can return the rings to the rightful owner. “The Living Island / Master of the Thieves” are the first two episodes so you get the full weirdness of why these kids just don’t have Shazzan do the real work. Yogi’s Gang stuck many of the Hanna-Barbera superstar animals on a flying ark. They end up doing the right thing to evil people such as “Mr. Bigot.” This is a severe message show that must have been a way to make up for the lack of minorities in The Jetsons and The Flintstones. Mr. Bigot makes the ark’s crew discriminate against others.
Disc two opens with a touch of the classics. In this case it’s classic Looney Tunes via Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. The line up includes “For Scent-Imental Reasons,” “Stop, Look and Hasten,” “Hare-Way to the Stars” and “Duck! Rabbit, Duck!” All are prime moments from Bugs Bunny and friends. Valley of the Dinosaurs is like Land of the Lost except the Butler family has a mom and there’s no freaky Sleestaks and mirrored aliens. The family explores a river canyon in the Amazon when their raft gets sucked into a whirlpool. They pop up in a prehistoric world filled with caveman and dinosaurs. “Forbidden Fruit” has them getting on the bad side of a brontosaurus. Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape has the time when the cat and mouse were friends. What is the point of them being pals? Grape Ape was a giant purple ape that wandered the country with his pal Beegle Beagle. He was a dog. The show is really dumb as the Grape Ape gets stuck in strange situations, but still sticks out. His shorts swap with Tom and Jerry cartoons. Included here is “No Way Stowaway,” “That Was No Idol, That Was My Ape,” “The Ski Bunny,” “The All American Ape” and “Stay Awake Or Else.”
Banana Splits Adventure Hour is a dream come true. For the last few decades, the series has been sliced up into half hours for syndication. Now they’ve reconstructed the first episode to give us a longer opening song, more joke segments featuring the Splits and the Kelloggs plugs. Danger Island isn’t cut in half with a freeze frame. This is pure joy. That’s not to say the entire hour is a glory to behold. The Arabian Knights and The Three Musketeers are some of the lamest cartoons of their era. They are so weak they ought to have education content. “Joining the Knights” and “The Littlest Musketeer” set up both series. You might hit chapter forward after watching them the first time. However their boring nature don’t damage the live action joy that is The Banana Splits and Danger Island live action segments. Danger Island was a 3 hour epic from Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon). This is the pinnacle of his career. The only disappointment is this is the first installment of the last great serial adventure so there’s no Chango (also called Chongo). The Splits perform two songs. Why aren’t they in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame instead of Madonna? There better be more Banana Splits love coming in the near future. Inch High Private Eye really was a inch high detective. He might be small, but it allowed him to pay attention to little clues. “Diamonds are a Crook’s Best Friend” has him looking for a jewel thief. New Adventures of Batman and Robin returns Adam West and Burt Ward to their roles as the Dynamic Duo. “Sweet Joke on Gotham City” has them hunt down a man who replaces the city’s water supply with milk chocolate. How is that a crime?
Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970s Volume 2 brings The Banana Splits back to its hour long format. For that alone, it’s worth a spot in the collection. The other cartoons keep up the good feelings that existed back in the ‘70s when Saturday mornings mattered to kids. There’s plenty of short bumpers that haven’t been seen for a while on TV. This is perfect if you want to teach your kids or younger relatives the joys of The Banana Splits and why they’re cooler than Hannah Montana.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers vary in quality from top notch 35mm transfers to broadcast videotape masters. This hit or miss gets really iffy on the found bumpers. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels are good with only an occasional glitch that doesn’t last long. The episodes are subtitled.
The Power of Shazzan (5:45) has Scott Jeralos and other discuss how this was the precursor to the Wonder Twins fist bumping for magic powers.
Getting to see a complete hour-long version of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was a complete rush. Now I want to see the other 17 hours of the series properly reconstructed. Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970s Volume 2 is why a kid wanted to wake up early on a Saturday morning instead of sleeping late like it was a Thursday.
Warner Home Video presents Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970s Volume 2. Starring: Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky. Boxset contents: 12 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: October 27, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Adam West, Batman