DVD Review: The Brady Kids (The Complete Animated Series)

The DVD era has been a great time for fans of vintage Saturday morning fun. So many of the classic shows that tasted so sweet with a bowl of Frankenberry and Cap’n Crunch have been released. One group of the weirdness that has been rather lacking representation are animated shows based off hit sitcoms. Odds are many of these shows have been kept in the vault because of rights issues or corporate shame. But in the ’70s, they were a great way to create a spin-off without splitting up the cast. Animating the stars allowed little kids to tune into the network. A kid that loves The Brady Bunch would surely wake up early on the weekend to see what happens when the six blended siblings break free of mom, dad and the domestic terror of Alice. The cartoon lasted two seasons as the live action series was winding down. The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Adventures is a bizarre treat featuring the voices of the original actors.

The animated version of the Bradys is not merely a painted version of the original scripts. These are not the primetime kids having their usual growing pains in a domestic situation. These kids hated hanging around the house. They were out and looking for action and adventure. The biggest advantage to fully animating the Brady kids is that the producers no longer had to care about risking lives and limbs in outrageous stunts. Bobby and Cindy can go shooting across the sky in a deflating hot air balloon without stunt people. Instead of meeting Joe Namath and Vincent Price, the animated kids rub shoulders with future Super Friends. More importantly the show’s producer cranked out another Brady property without worrying about the kids breaking any child labor laws. Stick them in a sound booth and barely an hour later, a complete audio track is ready. Unlike the primetime series, logic can just get thrown out the window since semi-talking pandas put an end to reality.

“Jungle Bungle” is a two part episode that has the kids get lost on a remote island. How did they end up there? They were in a hot air balloon race against their rivals Chuck White, Fleetwood and Babs. Their balloon gets popped making them stranded. Luckily they meet a magical talking mynah bird named Marlon and panda bears Ping and Pong. Tiger the dog has been transformed into a huge pooch named Mop Top that’s more human than mutt. “Long Gone Silver” brings the Lone Ranger’s horse to the tree house in the backyard. That’s something that couldn’t have been done with pesky Alice around. “Cindy’s Super Friend” has Lois Lane and Clark Kent hang out with the kids. This naturally bring along Superman. Filmation was doing the Superman series at this time. “It’s All Greek to Me” has Marlon use his magic to take the Bradys back to Ancient Greece. The trip hooks them up with Wonder Woman. These were major Saturday morning superstars for the animated world. The series also allowed the Bradys to finally become a family band. It’s so much easier to have the kids mime their instruments when their fingers are painted into place. They can almost be mistaken for The Partridge Family. The Brady Kids was successful enough to get a second season. Although this sophomore term featured only five episodes instead of 17. Just enough episodes to fool kids into thinking the show would have new episodes until Christmas. They also replaced half of the kids with other voice actors. But since most of the talking was done by the bird, the lack of the real Greg, Peter, and Marcia voices isn’t so noticeable.

I’m not going to whine about the limited animation techniques used by Filmation. Unlike other animation studios, Filmation animators were based around Hollywood. This mean American kids who dreamed of working in animation could find real work without going to South Korea and Mexico. It’s not like other animation outfits were given fatter Disney feature film budgets to make Saturday morning cartoons. Most of the character design looked like it was lifted from The Archies. But all is overlooked since the kids had their own pandas. The pure weirdness of The Brady Kids is especially entertaining to a fan who has seen The Brady Bunch way too many times over the decades.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are fine enough with the usual schmutz from animation cells. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear all the fake Chinese coming from the pandas. Plus there’s a reworked theme song to eliminate all mentions of the parents. The episodes are subtitled.

The Brady Kids is a surprise for fans of The Brady Bunch who might have forgotten all about the animated adventures.

CBS DVD presents The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Series. Starring: Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, Mike Lookinland, Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb & Susan Olsen. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: February 16, 2016.

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