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This was not only a pretty amazing show for its time,but a bold and
very strategic innovated concept that was ahead of its time in the
history of children's television. Imagine a movie of the week that was
devoted entirely to animated shows. These animated shows and sometimes
live-action features were produced for children as part of a movie of
the week that was mostly shown on Saturday Mornings. Well,this is what
the producers at ABC-TV came up with in the fall of 1972,and amazingly
it was shown right beside the regular Saturday Morning line-up of
animated shows and specials for ABC,under then the executive chairman
of children's programming at the time,legendary animator Chuck Jones.
"The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie",premiered in September of 1972 on the ABC-TV network. This was one innovated show that was the opposite of "The ABC Movie Of The Week",but this program was devoted entirely to kids as for TV-animated features and live-action movies that were made with children in mind. It was also amazing,and a first in its day, the four top animation studios of that era(Hanna-Barbera,Filmation, DePatie-Freleng,and Rankin-Bass)as well as a couple of other shows that basically went along with some of the ideas and produced all movies for this show. From the first day it hit the airwaves,it was a surprise hit that stay with the ABC-TV network for two seasons ending in 1974. In all more than 20 episodes were produced. Another interesting aspect about this show was that it served as a sort of preview for upcoming features and new shows that were coming as part of ABC's Saturday Morning Lineup. In fact,several shows served here as pilot episodes would go on to have their own series on the network.
In fact,the week before the animated series "The Brady Kids" premiered,it appeared on this show as a hour long preview,which basically was based on ABC's hugely successful "The Brady Bunch" featuring the voices of the kids themselves. Also other shows had their tryouts on this show as well including several that were based on successful television shows made their mark here. TV shows based on "Nanny And The Professor",were featuring which brought the cast of the TV series "Nanny And The Professor" and what they did was very unique here,blending live-action with animation and featuring the original cast of the series which featured the voices of Juliet Mills and Richard Long. Another one was based on Irwin Allen's "Lost In Space" television series,titled "The Adventures Of The Space Family Robinson",which was animated and featuring the voice-overs of the original cast which featured Guy Williams,June Lockhart and Jonathan Harris. Others that were featured here as well went on to become part of the Saturday Morning Line-Up as well. In fact,the week before "The Osmond Brothers" animated series premiered,it appeared on this show as an hour long preview. And this came out at the height of the bubblegum sound of that era,which also featured The Jackson Five,which was already on the ABC Saturday Morning schedule. Many other animated series had tryouts on this show as well including the hour long movie based on "Yogi's Gang",which was basically Hanna-Barbera's resurrection of Yogi Bear,Boo-Boo,and other Hanna-Barbera animated animal characters in a new format as well as the film on which "Lassie's Rescue Rangers",was based on as well. There were others as well that made this cut too including shows like "Kid Power",and not to mention movies based on classic stories and also other cartoon characters as well. Who remembers that movie that featured characters from Groovie Ghoulies meeting up with the characters of Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes? The name of that film was "Looney Tunes Meets The Groovie Ghoulies",which featured two of the Looney Tunes characters Daffy Duck and Porky Pig and two of the characters of Sabrina/Archie Comics. Another one also featured two of the children from another successful ABC-TV show which was also animated based on "Bewitched",which featured the children Adam and Tabitha in their own animated movie,and also they went even further by doing other projects as well based on classic children's novels and also other TV shows including one that featured the voices of Mario Thomas and Ted Bessell in a animated version based on the classic mid-60's series "That Girl".
"The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie" was a bold concept that was ahead of its time and some of the films that I mentioned haven't been seen since their original broadcast. It's a shame that neither Boomerang or Cartoon Network haven't gone into the vaults and basically show these classics again. In fact some of the shows that were made as movies were put right on the Saturday Morning schedule and some of them lasted no more than a year on the air,never to be heard from again. It'a a classic to the most extreme concept in the history of children's television. Wouldn't it been even great if the series had stay on the air and brought out other animated and live-action shows based on classic stories and some of our television favorites? Imagine if you will hour long animated shows based on the TV shows produced by Aaron Spelling or for that manner Glen Larson? The animated shows featuring characters from "The Six Million Dollar Man" or for that manner from "Starsky and Hutch"? Think about it. ABC would have been on top of it.
This was a pretty amazing show for its time. Imagine a movie of the week devoted entirely to animated shows. It also was amazing that the three major animation studios of that era (Hanna-Barbera, Filmation and Rankin Bass) as well as a couple of other studios went along with the idea and all produced "movies" for this show. Another interesting aspect of this show was that it served as sort of a preview for upcoming series. In fact, the week before the Brady Kids animated series premiered, it appeared on this show as an hour long preview. In fact, many other animated series had tryouts on this show including the film on which "Yogi's Gang" was based as well as the film on which "Lassie's Rescue Rangers" was based as well. I hope Boomerang or Cartoon Network goes into the vaults and starts to show some of these films again. In fact, many of them deserved to be made into series as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have vague memories of the features shown on this program. Some stood
out more than others, such as Oliver and the Artful Dodger, Popeye
Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter, and Lost in Space. Others served as
previews or pilots for animated series, such as Lassie and the Brady
Kids. Quality of story varied with studio and concept. The pairing of
the Looney Tunes characters and the Groovie Goolies isn't generally
highly regarded, as the animation was vastly inferior to the Warner
One of the first shows to really make an impression on me was Oliver and the Artful Dodger. It combined elements of Dickens' stories, not just Oliver Twist (if fuzzy memory serves). The character designs were from the master, Alex Toth, and the story was quite good, with real intrigue and suspense. The bleak world was rather scary to a youngster of the 70's. Unfortunately, at the time, I missed the second part and it would be some time before I saw how the story ended.
Another favorite was Lost in Space, from Filmation, featuring voices from original cast members. It showed a lot of promise, but was not picked up as a series.
Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter was also a favorite, as it featured many of the great Hearst Syndicate comic strip characters; including one of my favorites, the Phantom. It helped to fuel a desire to learn more about these characters and strips, which led to the discovery of many wonderful books about the history of comic strips, and reprints of gorgeous work, like Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon.
The other great memory was of the Willie Mays episode. It was somewhat unique, in that it featured a real person, not just an animated version of a TV character.
It's a shame that the concept didn't live up to it's full potential as a showcase for quality animated stories. Most of the material was fairly forgettable, even at the time, with a few great standouts. It could have spurred on higher quality for TV animation, but networks weren't willing to make the kinds of investments that would fund that type of work. Instead it became a unique experiment that is a wisp of a memory.
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