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Saturday, June 7, 2014

'Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch' DVD: Cute '70s Hanna Barbera Saturday Morning Car-Toon

Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch: The Complete Series
Watching the live-action Disney "Herbie" The Love Bug films (after running through all the Disney Dexter Riley flicks) from the late '60s and early '70s inspired getting the Warner Archive three-disc DVD set of the complete series of the 1974-75 Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon show "Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch."

Like Herbie, Wheelie is a VW Bug with a mind of his own and the ability to operate without any human assistance; unlike Herbie, but like the denizens of the universe in the Pixar "Cars" franchise, Wheelie lives in a world that is entirely inhabited by anthrophromorpic vehicles.

One mystery is why all the other vehicles can speak, whereas the vocalizations of Wheelie are limited to beeps from his horn. Having hearts and other images appear on his windshield further communicates his emotions.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Wheelie" offers a nice look at the great slapstick humor of the series.


Each of the thirteen "Wheelie" episodes includes three shorts that typically involve the titular Chopper Bunch attempting to either best our hero or cause him physical harm; the success in presenting variations on that theme evoke thoughts of a remark regarding the new "Tom and Jerry" series on Cartoon Network that there are a surprisingly large number of ways that a cat can chase a mouse.

The first outing for our gang has Wheelie and the Bunch competing in a road race that has a date with Wheelie's main squeeze Rota Ree as a prize. The sabotage attempts and other terrific animated mayhem bring to mind the even more classic 1968-69 Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series "Wacky Races."

Other adventures have the Bunch trying to scare Wheelie away from an inherited junkyard, to prevent him from winning a sports competition, and doing their best to prevent making a trip to the seashore a day at the beach.

An especially amusing short has a car with an old-style gangster persona land a gig as a consultant to the Bunch regarding their efforts to make Wheelie's life miserable. The manners in which these schemes backfire provide some of the best humor in the series.

The most funny line in "Wheelie" unintentionally earns that honor. Wheelie finishes his own yard work only to have Rota very sweetly ask him to mow her lawn.

"Wheelie" is also a standout for having a wonderfully primitive look that is not at all sloppy or amateurish; the bright and crudely drawn background are simply more rough than the more studio look that is typical of the scores of beloved Hanna-Barbera series from the '60s and '70s.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Wheelie" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.