I didn't have much of a sugar-buzzed childhood; I spent weekends with my grandparents, where breakfast ran to the basics of bacon, eggs, and toast, though they were tolerant of those new-fangled Pop-Tart things. And they were happy to let me park my sickly behind in front of their TV all morning long to watch cartoons in this, the glorious golden age of Saturday Morning. Forty years later, I've given up the Pop-Tarts, but slowly, surely, my childhood is becoming ownable on DVD.
Filmation scored their first major property when DC Comics handed them The New Adventures of Superman, which debuted in 1966. Those existing episodes were folded into The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure for the 1967 season. Buffering the two Aquaman stories each episode were what could be called one-shots of other heroes from the DC stable, in this case, The Atom, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman, The Justice League of America, and the Teen Titans. Well, not truly one-shots, there were three stories produced for each.
The menaces in these tales run to alien invaders and mad scientists, all easily defeatable within the 8 minute time frame. The stories themselves are very definite kiddie fare, not even up to the caliber of what DC was producing in the comics themselves at the time. There is the usual Filmation reliance on stock footage, and some oddities, like Aquaman being referenced in the Justice League intro, then never showing up in any of the stories, though Aqualad does appear in the Teen Titans. Batman, in a successful prime-time series over on ABC, would not get the Filmation treatment until the next year.
DC purists will likely not take too kindly to liberties taken with the heroes' mythologies, though it is nice to go back for just a moment to a time when Superman could move the Earth just by pushing really hard. To be fair, I think he also did that in the Super Friends series a few times, but by that point the Justice League was doing fifteen impossible/ridiculous things an episode, and it doesn't stand out quite so baldly as it does here.
As ever, digital clarity does not necessarily do a favor to TV animation of a bygone era. Dust and imperfections on the cels are glaringly obvious, but if you're actively looking for stuff like that, you're an aging curmudgeon like me, and should instead be watching the Atom kick the Beetle Men in the face. I don't think the kids will mind.
There is an odd and glaring error in the menus, however. Someone at Warner Home Video was asleep at the switch (or is a puckish fanboy), since - although we're here to see Hawkman cartoons - the personage referenced at least twice in the menus is Birdman, a Hanna-Barbera character that debuted the same year, on a different network. Oops.
First off, the DVD is going to piss you off. Just as on Batman: Gotham Knight, the viewer will be presented with Warner's new anti-piracy ad, which uses scenes from the classic Wizard of Oz to inform the consumer that everyone who bought the DVD is probably planning to pirate it. You can likely tell that this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What did Dorothy ever do to you, you schmucks?
Disc Two at least just starts off with ads for Scooby Doo and the Goblin King and the Tiny Toon Adventures sets.
Each disc's worth of episodes (nine on each, for a total of 18) finishes up with the end credits from the Aquaman show. There are, additionally, trailers for It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Popeye and Friends, Vol. 1 (the 1976 Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon), Lego Batman and Smurfs, Vol. 2.
The only actual extra is the well-produced, 40-minute Animation Maverick: The Lou Scheimer Story, which uses interviews, photos, and a few clips to tell how Scheimer and his partners, tired of uncertain work conditions, got together and actually made Filmation from the ground up. I'm not a big fan of Filmation's work, but in light of the story presented here, I have to give the company its due. They held true to their dream of providing a place for American animators to work on a continuing basis for years, until the company was basically sold out from under them. The interviewees also address the stock footage situation, which earns them a lot more credit in my eyes.
Dr. Freex, 8/23/2008