On the fine Saturday morning of September 10, 1966, kids across America bore witness to the premiere of Hanna-Barbera’s newest creation - Space Ghost and Dino Boy. When you consider the viewing schedule, debuting a new show was quite a risky affair. CBS was airing Underdog, Frankenstein Jr., The Impossibles, The New Adventures of Superman, and the Road Runner. ABC was going strong with Porky Pig, The Beatles, Bugs Bunny, and Magilla Gorilla. And along with reruns of The Flintstones, NBC was broadcasting Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel, and The Jetsons. Tough crowd, to say the least. Nonetheless, Space Ghost and Dino Boy made enough of a lasting impression to endure for over forty years, host his own late-night show spoof, and finally receive a long overdue DVD release.
If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s a quick rundown…
Utilizing his famed Phantom Cruiser to travel the space ways, Space Ghost is an interstellar police officer with the power of invisibility and flight. He also has two potent arm bands that emit a range of energy beams (destroyer rays, ice force field, viso wall, electroshock, hypnoforce will, stun, sonic vibro). With the help of sibling sidekicks Jan, Jace, and their pet monkey Blip, Space Ghost would immerge victorious episode after episode against the threats of Zorak, Brak, Moltar, and the evil Sorcerer. Each Space Ghost episode ran half-an-hour and featured two 8-minute installments. Sandwiched between the Space Ghost sections was an 8-minute installment of Dino Boy in the Lost Valley.
From the show’s intro: “Forced to parachute from a disabled plane, a young boy lands in a mysterious prehistoric valley filled with hidden dangers. When a saber-toothed tiger attacks he is saved by a giant caveman. And so begins the friendship and adventures of Dino Boy and Ugh the Caveman in the Lost Valley!” What they forgot to mention is Todd’s (the young boy’s name) pet dinosaur, a young brontosaurus appropriately called Bronto.
Like myself, fans of the series have only been able to get their hands on the series through comic conventions and ebay. Most of these fan-assembled bootlegs are plagued by bad quality, poor editing, and missing episodes. But thanks to this DVD collection, retro animation lovers can finally toss out the VHS-transferred DVDs and custom made cases for an official Space Ghost and Dino Boy release.
As I popped in the first of the two, double-sided discs in this collection, I quickly realized why I’d forgotten most of Dino Boy’s prehistoric exploits. Nothing against the kid, but his episodes are a little less than inspired. Although caveman Ugh did his best to keep his new young friend out of danger, most of the episodes saw Todd being kidnapped by the Spear Warriors, the Rock Pygmies, or the Worm People. Bronto also gets annoying with his yelping and moaning that sounds identical to Scooby Doo’s voice (which makes sense since both voices were done by veteren voice actor Don Messick). So for me, the real star of this set is Space Ghost.
Some folks refer to Space Ghost as “a space Batman”. I guess that makes sense. He’s got the secret base of operations (The Ghost Planet), a supped-up vehicle (The Phantom Cruiser), a utility belt, sidekicks, and a killer rogues gallery. However, as an eight year old kid watching reruns of the cartoon, I didn’t make the connection. Space Ghost was just, well, Space Ghost. He could fly, turn invisible, and he could shoot just about anything out of his arm bands; everything a growing boy needs in his regular imagination diet. Watching it now, the show comes off campy and somewhat silly, particularly when Blip saves the day. But the retro superheroic value is hard not to appreciate. Of note is the awesome six-part "Council of Doom" storyline where Metallus, Spider-Woman, Creature King, Brak, Zorak, and Moltar team up against Space Ghost. Luckily, our hero is helped by fellow Hanna-Barbera heroes Mightor, the Herculoids and Shazzan.
As far as extras go, disc two of the collection features the 96-minute documentary, Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. Toth is recognized as one of the greatest animation desigers and had a significant hand in the creation of both Space Ghost and Dino Boy. The documentary details his career in comics and animation and helps explain why he is regarded as an “artist's artist”. If you’re barely a fan of Dino Boy and a Space Ghost enthusiast in passing, the documentary alone is worth the price of admission.
Technically speaking, it doesn’t seem that the folks behind the DVD made too much of an effort to remaster the picture quality as scratches and spots are visible throughout. But the colors are significantly more vivid than the dull, muted palette I’d been relegated to watching on VHS-quality versions of the cartoon so I’ll keep my complaints to a minimum. The audio is exceptionally clear, especially when Birdman employs his inevitable “Spaaace Ghooost!” call.
Finally, if anyone at Warner Brothers is listening, please stop releasing these DVDs in the impossible to open slim cardboard cases. You practically have to shake the inner DVD case out if you want to get to the discs. Warner Brothers did the same thing for the Batman Beyond: Season 3 and Justice League Unlimited Season 2 releases. If they just stuck to nice and simple, two-disc clam shell cases like they have for The Batman and Teen Titans DVDs, cartoons lovers and fanboys would be much happier. I know I would.
Overall, I'm beyond ecstatic to finally see Space Ghost and Dino Boy on my DVD shelf. And to show that Warner Brothers does know a little something about the audience for these animated classics, they’ve also released Birdman and the Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series DVD in the same week. If The Fantastic Four, The Herculoids, Thundarr, and Mightor are on the horizon, I’ll be in retro toon heaven. Frankly, if the first time you saw Space Ghost was on Coast To Coast, you may not be keen on this DVD release. But if you’re a fan of the classic cartoons, it’s a must buy.