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This animated children's series was allegedly based on Jules Verne's
novel, but seems to be based more directly on the 1959 film version.
Gertrude the Duck, who wasn't in the novel but provided some comic
relief in the movie, shows up here as one of the regular cast of
characters. This series featured extremely low-budget animation, but
had lots of action and some scripts that were hugely imaginative
despite their basic implausibility: it seemed as if every week's
episode featured yet another lost race of semi-humanoids living in the
earth's core, to say nothing of prehistoric monsters.
I saw several episodes of this series at a screening in London in 1972, when someone from Filmation Associates tried to sell the UK syndication rights. Instead of an 'origin' episode to set up the characters, each episode began with a flashback sequence to explain the show's premise. Basically, Professor Lindenbrook wants to explore a subterranean tunnel discovered by the late Arne Saknussem. For some contrived reason, the latter's evil descendant Count Saknussem -- 'last descendant of the once-noble Saknussem family' -- abetted by 'his brute-like servant Torg', doesn't like this. (Torg looks like a troglodyte, and has a permanent grimace ... probably because his name is 'grot' spelt backward.) The count and Torg dynamite the tunnel, trapping themselves inside along with Lindenbrook and his companions.
Lindenbrook's companions are his attractive niece Cindy and handsome young Alec (no mushy stuff, though) as well as muscular Lars (who gets lots of 'by-yiminee' dialogue) and the aforementioned Gertrude the Duck. Since they can't get out the way they came in, they decide to travel DEEPER into the Earth, in hope of finding another way out. All they've got are titchy little knapsacks; nobody ever explains how these people survive with one set of clothing apiece, and no discernible provisions. (Maybe Gertrude keeps laying eggs.) And, unlike coal miners, they never seem to have any problems with the air, the temperature or the humidity.
So, every week they run afoul of underground pterodactyls, or whatever. The four goodie characters (plus the duck) are travelling separately from the two baddies, but somehow Count Saknussem and Torg keep showing up whenever it's convenient for the script. I'll give the writers some credit for just occasionally bringing a bit of genuine science into the scripts. I recall that, in one episode, Professor Lindenbrook deduced that they must be in a tunnel under the Middle East because it was full of petroleum deposits.
Long on action and science fiction, and short on plausibility, this series was mostly enjoyable. Every episode ended with the adventurers finding some clue that they were still on Arne Saknussem's original trail, and would get back to the surface eventually if they just kept on as they'd begun. Unfortunately, there was occasionally some rather stupid comic relief. One episode ended with the adventurers in a cavern, discovering a carved diagram showing Saknussem's route to the centre of the earth. This was Gertrude's cue to squat on the diagram, prompting Lars to note (in his El Brendel accent) that Gertrude was going to the centre of the Earth 'the easy way!'. Apparently this was meant to be funny, because the other characters laughed. I just wish that ONE episode had acknowledged that the characters had difficulty finding a reliable food source down there in the magma. To say nothing of hygiene problems...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Only one person has commented on this modest one year animated show so
are my thoughts. I wonder if anyone else out there shares
This show was run in repeats Sunday mornings growing up in Boston, MA along with the more successful (and generally better) Fantastic Voyage (which also featured Ted Knight and Jane Webb) and the animated Hardy Boys mysteries (also featuring Jane Webb and directed by Hal Sutherland, who also directed Fantastic Voyage). It was definitely the weakest of the cartoons available on a sunday but given that the only alternative was warmed over davey and goliath claymation on CBS, I usually wound up watching this show and probably eventually saw almost every episode.
Almost everything else from my childhood memory of the show is now lost to misfiring neurons but I do recall one particular episode which was miles ahead of the rest and featured some sort of intelligent insects or alien life forms which inhabit statues and make them come to life. To this day some thirty years later I'd LOVE to see this episode again, which I have a vague suspicion is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. Anyone else recall it?
One other observation: Jane Webb sure got around in the voice-over business but in fact she got her start in the 30s in several movies before incubating some TWENTY NINE years before getting back in the business as an animated voice for countless cartoons for the following fifteen years. That has to be one of the longest layoffs in cinematic history and what a comeback!
The first ever animated series based on a Jules Verne novel,since this
was a loose adaption of the 1865 book,but it was more in tune to the
1959 motion picture of the same title that starred Pat Boone and James
Mason. This was the animated version of the novel that was produced by
Lou Scheimer and Norman Prescott for Filmation Associates in
association with Twentieth Century-Fox Television(which went heavily by
the studio's version of the same title)that was part of ABC-TV's
Saturday Morning schedule from September 9,1967 until August 30,1969.
This series premiered on ABC's Saturday Morning schedule as did another
successful animated hit "The Adventures of Spider-Man",which was a
major hit for ABC,which was the first animated series produced for
Saturday Mornings based on the Marvel Comics Character.
The series really concentrated on the characters of the Oscar-winning 1959 film instead of the 1865 book of the same title written by Jules Verne. But the two go hand in hand. The series focus on Professor Lindenbrook took his niece Cindy and her classmate Alec on an expedition through caverns with the group's brawny blonde guide Lars. Calmity struck when the evil Count Saccnuson,a descendant of the explorer who found that the route they were traveling led to the middle of the world,sealed off the entrance in an effort to prevent them from returning to the surface. The Count's manservant Tors helped in trying to stop Lindenbrook's group in all of the 17 episodes that were produced in which all of them lead to having cliffhanger endings. Adding a lighter touch to the menacing chases through the caves was Cindy's pet duck Gertrude. Though producers Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer went by the studio's version of the same title,the series used writers from TV-shows like "Star Trek", "Daktari", "Lost In Space",and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea",there was little in the scripting that made this cartoon better than others seen at the time,especially for 1967,when this came out against the superiority of the Saturday Morning superhero shows that exploded during the late 1960's. And speaking of the supporting stock-players,the great Ted Knight voiced the characters of Professor Lindenbrook/Count Saccnuson,while regular Filmation stockplayer Jane Webb did the voice of Cindy,and the great Pat Harrington,Jr.(who did the voice of the Inspector in the DFE-United Artists produced "The Inspector" animated theatrical shorts,and later on was Schneider on the Norman Lear-produced series "One Day At A Time" during the mid-1970's)did voicework for the characters of Alec McEwen/ the professor's assistant Lars,and also voice the evil hencemen Torg.
"Journey to the Center of the Earth",was the first TV cartoon series based on Jules Verne's classic novel. Other works from Jules Verne would arrived later including "Around the World in 80 Days"(the first-ever Saturday Morning cartoon produced in Austraila for American Television in 1972),and also "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea"(the animated version produced by Hanna-Barbera would arrived in 1973).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Journey to the Center of the Earth found a home not only on the large
screen, but was adapted for television as well. It first came to
television as a Saturday morning cartoon during the 1967-69 seasons,
when ABC aired a sequence of 17 animated films under the series title
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. Directed by Hal Sutherland, these
were produced by Louis Scheimer and Norman Prescott for Filmation
(helping to launch the studio) in association with 20th Century-Fox
Television, with the plot based on the studio's 1959 movie. The
narration of the prefatory sequence set the premise and mood:
Long ago, a lone explorer named Arne Saknussemm made a fantastic descent to the fabled lost kingdom of Atlantis at the Earth's core. After many centuries, his trail was discovered, first by me, Professor Oliver Lindenbrook, my niece Cindy, student Alec McKuen, our guide Lars and his duck Gertrude. But we were not alone. The evil Count Saknussemm, last descendant of the once noble Saknussemm family, had followed us, to claim the center of the Earth for his power-mad schemes. He ordered his brute-like servant Torg to destroy our party. But the plan backfired, sealing the entrance forever. And so for us began a desperate race to the Earth's core, to learn the secret of the way back. This is the story of our new journey to the center of the Earth.
This preface, with many of its visuals repeated over the closing credits, situates the series as simultaneously an alternate version of the 1959 movie, and a possible sequel, and is open to either interpretation. There are clear similarities and differences; this time the Lindenbrook expedition included the Professor and Alec, but Hans becomes Lars (given a humorous Swedish accent), and Cindy takes the place of both Jenny and Carla, but is the love interest of no one. Gertrude, too well remembered by young viewers of the movie, had to be revived from her ignominious end as Count Saknussemm's last meal.
However, unlike the careful plotting of the movie, the series is geared strictly toward children, with cheap animation. The characters's catch phrase, "No stopping--we've got to keep moving," could have been the motto of the series, and its logo was a silhouette of the four main characters running, with Gertrude flying just ahead. They search for Atlantis, somewhere in the center of the Earth, as the spot that will show them how to get back to the surface. Each episode consisted of repetitious incidents relating the momentary menace of a monster or some other peril, such as a man-headed spider. The escapes are no more probable than the danger, such as fleeing a volcanic eruption by riding a wave of lava surfboard-style. With such incidents placed back to back without pause, there was no attempt at logic or development; endemic of this style was the lack of any opening or ending episodes to the series.
However, there is more derived from the novel than might be expected in a series of this type; in the episode Revenge of the Fossils, a race of prehistoric men are discovered by Lindenbrook and accidentally revived only to become distinctly menacing, while in Creatures of the Swamp they journey via raft. A few incidents survive from the novel and film; in Trail of Gold, they find a false Atlantis, and escape by floating in a mine tram up a shaft and away while the city's molten gold wells up around them and eventually covers the city and its inhabitants. Yet at the same time, the series, with its motifs of Atlantis and a storyline dominated by children, seems to have made a deep impression on those who saw it, and served as the true source of inspiration for many filmmakers who would tackle the story in the 1980s and beyond, perhaps having been seen at a youthful age when the series could make a profound impact. Voices were provided by Ted Knight as Lindenbrook and Saknussemm, Jane Webb as Cindy, and Pat Harrington, Jr., as Alec, Lars, and Torg. Lindenbrook took over the duties of first person narration from Alec. The sequential episode titles included Land of the Dead, Living City, Creature World, Ocean of Destruction, Perils of Volcano Island, Frozen Furies, Caveman Captives, Arena of Fear, Sleeping Slaves of Zeerah, Return of Gulliver, Labyrinth Builders, Moths of Doom, Trail of Gold, Revenge of the Fossils, Creatures of the Swamp, The Living Totems, and Doomed Island.
In 1968, Whitman published a series tie-in coloring book as well as a volume in the Big Little Books series as No. 26. Adapted by Paul S. Newman, this version of Journey to the Center of the Earth was subtitled The Fiery Foe, and tells how Saknussemm traps the Lindenbrook party in the realm of the Reergs, a strange underground race. The next year, Whitman Junior Guild issued a round jigsaw puzzle (no. 4426) with 125 interlocking pieces, 20 inches in diameter, illustrating a scene from the series.
This animated series contains elements of both book and movie. The
Lindenbrook expedition (Prof. Lindenbrook, his niece Cindy, his
assistant Alec McEwan and their guide Lars (and his pet duck Gertrude))
race to the center of the earth to find a way back to the surface. They
follow the trail of explorer Arne Sacnusson. They are opposed by Count
Sacnusson (Arne's evil descendant) and his servant Torg, who are trying
to beat them to the earth's core at all costs. On the way, both parties
encounter lost civilizations and a host of monsters. Fun animated
The only other person to comment on this series recalled seeing it as a child growing up in Boston. Growing up in southeastern New Hampshire, I'm sure we both watched it on channel 38 (then an independent UHF station). On weekend mornings, they ran syndicated cartoon shows like this, the Fantastic Voyage animated series and hosts of more traditional fair (e.g. Popeye, Warner Bros., etc.). It definitely made for an entertaining alternative to the programming available on mainstream television. Unlike the other reviewer, I can't recall any specific episodes, but I can tell you that I enjoyed this series. For anyone into the sci-fi/fantasy cartoon genre, check it out. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
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