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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

'The Super Globetrotters' DVD: Hanna-Barbera Mashes Up 'Scooby-Doo' and 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids'

The Super Globetrotters: The Complete Series
The Warner Archive 13-episode 2-disc Complete Series DVD release of the 1979-80 Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon "The Super Globetrotters" provides fans of that show and/or the titular basketball clowns a chance to relive fond memories of either entertainment source. The treat for the rest of us relates to watching a lesser-known entry from the golden age of kids programming.

The apparent motivations for giving members of this famed basketball exhibition (rather than exhibitionist) group a Saturday morning series include the popularity of the real-life alter egos of these animated characters and the response to having said characters appear in the earlier "The New Scooby-Doo Movies." This appeal is also behind the prior HB Saturday morning series "The Harlem Globetrotters."

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the opening credits for "Globetrotters" offers a comprehensive look at the '70slicious style and cartoony fun of the series.

The concept of this series is that uber-popular Curly and four of his teammates moonlight as superheroes. In a wonderful nod to classic Superman, the gang literally springs into action by jumping in their highly portable (and compactable) lockers when contacted by the orbiting satellite known as Crime Globe, which looks like a basketball. This highly advanced can communicate via everything from a Jumbotron to virtually any other inanimate object.

'Scooby' veteran Frank Welker and veteran actor Scatman Crothrs (who also voices the lead character in the classic HB series "Hong Kong Phooey") do terrific jobs respectively voicing Crime Globe and Curly.

The superhero alter ego of Curly has a large basketball for a head. Multiman can quickly create numerous duplicates of himself; Gizmo Man stores a warehouse full of useful objects in his mother of all 'fros; Liquid Man can transform himself into water, and the even-more bizarre Spaghetti Man has a body that is mostly made of a super-strong pasta-looking substance.

Each episode pits the gang against a super villain who has his own special abilities and/or tech. The episode titled "The Super Globetrotters Vs. The Time Lord" horribly teases "Doctor Who" fans by having absolutely no connection with that series.

This combination of the Globetrotters using their basketball games as a cover for their crime-fighting activities under the direction of a highly advanced AI device and occasionally stumbling into their own adventures makes the series a great combination of the "Scooby" series and the Unreal TV reviewed companion HB '70s series "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids." The latter revolves around a teen rock band that (unlike fellow HB characters Josie and the Pussycat) purposefully seeks out the evildoers whom they make "take a fall."

"Globetrotters" is also akin to "Scooby" in presenting amusing variations on essentially the same storyline. The fun relates to the campy villains and the related variations on the largely unvaried theme.

In the case of "Globetrotters," each episode typically opens with scenes of the villain of the week carrying out his nefarious scheme and the five teammates showing off their basketball skills in a formal or informal venue. The two intersect when Crime Globe calls the boys into action.

Our heroes then leap into their lockers, transform into their meta-human personas, literally fly off to fulfill their mission, get captured, use their superpowers to escape, enter another confrontation with their current foe, agree to the peaceful solution of a basketball game regarding which the victors will receive the spoils, get trounced while playing in their non-hero mode against the (usually) enhanced-ability henchbeings of the bad guy, transform into super heroes after the first half of the game. and then amusingly use said powers to win the game by two points.

"The Super Globetrotters Vs. The Phantom Cowboy" is an excellent example of both the "Scooby" vibe and more general theme of "Globetrotters." This one opens with the team on their way to accept an invitation for a vacation at a ranch.  (The "Roadrunner" style desert backgrounds are a nice bonus.)

The gang soon encounters the aforementioned creepy entity; on arriving at the ranch, they further discover quicker than you can say "zoinks" that that creature is creating widespread chaos. It is equally predictably that the underlying nefarious scheme includes a campaign to scare the congenial ranch owner off her land. The basketball game in this one pits our pros against a team of extraordinary cowboys.

The nice thing about the "Globetrotters" variation of the "Scooby" theme is that basing it on real-life individuals broadens its appeal. Seeing the already amazing "Globetrotters" enhance their skills by playing in an environment in which the laws of physics do not apply further makes this show entertaining.

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