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Feb 182015
 

Among the Hanna Barbera cartoons I grew up with was Hong Kong Phooey – The Complete Series (1974-1975). When I was younger, I had no idea what it was about, but now I do.

Hong Kong Phooey is a superhero dog. His secret identity is Penry Penrod a clumsy police station janitor. Even though nobody knows that Penry is Hong Kong Phooey, he’s still the only talking dog around, so wouldn’t that seem obvious?

 

When it comes time for Penry to go into action, he has quite a setup. First he goes into a secret passage behind a vending machine, and then changes into costume in a filing cabinet. It’s clever, but the top drawer always sticks. He never seems to get around to fix it.

Hong Kong Phooey’s sidekick is Spot the cat, who seems to be a lot smarter than he is. In fact, Spot always ends up helping Hong Kong Phooey capture the crooks since the heroic dog is not able minded. That’s right. Even as a superhero he’s a klutz, but because he’s world famous, no one cares if he messes up, most of the time. If only Spot could talk, then maybe Hong Kong Phooey won’t always assume he did it all.

Of course there are times when Hong Kong Phooey succeeds on his own, but it’s always by accident. He also has to frequently check his Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu to get out of jams. I’m surprised that the enemies give him time to do so during battle.

Then we have the Phooey Mobile. This vehicle can transform into a variety of things just by ringing a mini gong. Hong Kong Phooey doesn’t set the gong, so how does the Phooey Mobile become the desired vehicle without a setting of some sort?

There are only two other principle characters that work at the police station with Penry and Spot. First is Sargent Flint, who Penry drives crazy when he bumble his duties. I’m surprised Flint has never fired Penry from all the mishaps.

The other is Rosemary the lovely telephone operator. Whenever she gets a call, Rosemary always gives an elaborate introduction like; “This is Rosemary the telephone operator, the lovely lassie with the classy chassis.” Rosemary is fascinated by Hong Kong Phooey. As for how she feels about Penry, Rosemary sees potential. At times she tries to convince Penry to enroll in the police academy so he won’t have to work as a janitor anymore. However, Penry keeps declining, probably as an attempt to keep his secret identity a secret.

I should also point out that Hong Kong Phooey has no arch nemesis. Every enemy is different and never makes a second appearance in the series, but they all seem to know him like everyone else does.

This was certainly a classic series. I can also remember when Hong Kong Phooey was on Laff-A-Lympics as a member of the Scooby Doobies team. He hardly participated and when he did, he never talked. I wonder why that was.

Mar 092012
 

Hanna Barbera Productions has produced many different cartoon shows over the years. Laff-A-Lympics (1977-1978) provides an opportunity to bring these various characters together in a weekly sport competition with creatively unorthodox events, while traveling around the world.

Snagglepuss and Mildew Wolf from The Catanooga Cats Show are the commentators.

The athletes are split into three teams. Team #1 is the Yogi Yahooeys with Yogi Bear as captain. They are all animal characters from The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Yogi Bear Show, and Quick Draw McGraw, along with Grape Ape.

Team #2 is the Scooby Doobies with Scooby Doo as captain. This group is all mystery solver characters from The Scooby Doo Show, Dynomutt the Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, and Speed Buggy, along with Hong Kong Phooey and Babu from Jeannie.

And team #3 is the Really Rottens. Other than team captain Mumbly, who has a striking resemblance to Muttley, these characters are all brand new to the Hanna Barbera franchise. Some of which are highly similar, like the Creepleys who are much like the Gruesomes from The Flintstones and Dread Baron who resembles Dick Dastardly.

On occasion, other characters make guest appearances. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble come by to demonstrate an event and Jabberjaw makes appearances as a guest referee, particularly for the water events. Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite.

As the three teams compete for the Laff-A-Lympics gold medal, the Rottens always look for ways to cheat while the Yogis and Scoobys work hard to earn the prize fairly. Sometimes the Rottens lose points for cheating, but only when they get caught. I’m surprised that it doesn’t happen often.

I don’t know how they select which athletes to do which events, but the creativity he or she provides makes them exciting to watch. It’s kind of like picturing these characters as video game heroes.

The scoring system is always the same, 25 points for first place, 15 points for second, and 10 points for third. On rare occasions, there’s a 50-point bonus included for the really difficult events. Unfortunately, none of the teams have ever won it. It can be overwhelming if you think about it.

Each episode features six events, three in one country and three in another. Yet there’s no mention of the transportation used to get to these places so efficiently. It makes me wonder what these athletes do to party while they travel.

I enjoyed this series for its mixture of characters and exciting competition. Even though the Rottens never learn about cheating, it’s good to know that the Yogis and Scoobys are good sports toward one another.

Jan 282012
 

Classic cartoons from the old days always had memorable theme songs, some of which could be found on soundtrack albums if there were any. In the mid 90s, there was a very rare mixture on an album called Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, which features the different theme songs in a more extended and updated manner and performed by “modern” bands and artists.

Some of those classic songs include the themes from Scooby-Doo Where Are You, Josie and the Pussycats, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, PopeyeHong Kong Phooey, and Spiderman (60s version). A different artist or band like Matthew Sweet, Liz Phair, The Ramones, The Butthole Surfers, Juliana Hatfield, and others perform them.

Not all of the tracks are theme songs though. There are also songs from different shows that were hits back in the day like Sugar Sugar from The Archie Show, Epp Opp Ork Ah-Ah from The Jetsons, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy from Ren and Stimpy, and Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine in from The Flintstones. All of which were only featured once in certain episodes. Does anyone still remember any of these songs?

There are even theme songs from shows I had never even heard of before like The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Groovie Ghoulies, Gigantor, and H.R. Pufnstuf. Luckily, the inside cover has information on each show, which made them more familiar to me and made me curious to see what these shows are like, if I can find them either on DVD, Netflix, or the Boomerang Channel.

Along with the info, there’s also a bit of commentary from the bands and artists about their take on these songs as well as their favorite cartoons growing up. It must be a real pleasure to participate in an album like this.

In addition to the album, there was also a straight-to-video feature about Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits. On a beautiful sunny day, Drew Barrymore and her friends have fun watching music videos from all of the different songs and provide their own cute and funny commentary. (It doesn’t include the theme from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids for some reason.)

To add to the fun, the group also gets a package that contains things like breakfast cereal, candy necklaces, and silly string in spray cans. That’s just the kind of stuff that represents innocent times. You won’t find a special like this on MTV and I have no doubt that only hardcore Drew Barrymore fans would remember it.

This album is unique with its modern twist on old favorites. Once I do find any of the old shows, after listening to this CD, I now observe the theme songs to see how they are different in comparison.