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Warner Home Video presents
Magilla Gorilla: The Complete Series (1964-1966)

"How much is that gorilla in the window?"
- Ogee (Jean Vander Pyl)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 14, 2006

Stars: Allan Melvin, Don Messick, Howard Morris
Other Stars: Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc
Director: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cartoon violence, some drug use)
Run Time: 07h:53m:44s
Release Date: August 15, 2006
UPC: 014764321622
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C-C-C C-

DVD Review

The Hanna-Barbera studios had a long run of hit animated series during the early 1960s, but as their programs began to proliferate, the ideas began to run a bit thin. Approached by the Ideal Toy Corp. to produce a show about a gorilla, the studio came up with an anthology type program, with three disparate cartoons, each running about 6m:45s, sharing the running time of the half-hour program. These consisted of the title character, Magilla Gorilla, lawman Richochet Rabbit, and the pair of Punkin Puss and Mushmouse. This four-disc set collects 23 full episodes of the series, plus eight bonus Magilla cartoons, which presumably were combined with the other cartoons to create "new" episodes.

Magilla Gorilla is easily the best of the three cartoon sets. They do have a tendency to follow a pattern. Most often, Magilla (voiced by Allan Melvin, best known today as Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch) is the star offering of the pet shop operated by Mr. Peebles (Howard Morris). But Magilla proves to be unsaleable in the long run; a series of purchasers buy Magilla, having their own schemes at heart, and by the end return him back to the shop as unsuitable. The variations come in a sprinkling of episodes featuring Magilla's odd relationship with little girl Ogee (voiced by Jean Vander Pyl, who also did Wilma Flintstone), so named because she always says, "Oh, gee." Yes, it's incredibly lame. But the interplay of a small child's imagination with the gorilla's stupidity is often entertaining. There are occasional flights of fancy that work well, such as Magilla being adopted as the spokesgorilla for a flying car, with predictably disastrous results. The Magilla Gorilla cartoons have an odd self-awareness, since the characters in them are constantly singing snatches of the Magilla Gorilla theme song. Some clever sight gags aimed at adults are also included, such as a ship being named the S.S. Mal de Mer. Magilla shows an awareness of popular culture, picking up on skateboarding moves, surfing and starting a dance craze.

I can recollect Ricochet Rabbit being one of my childhood favorites, though on revisiting it, I'm having trouble discerning what the appeal was. The fastest sheriff in the West, Sheriff "ping-ping-PINGngngngng" Ricochet Rabbit (Hanna-Barbera staple Don Messick) deals with the lawless, with the help of slow-moving coyote Deputy Droop-A-Long (Mel Blanc). Although nearly all of the shorts are presented as if they're parodies of Westerns, set in the old West, two of them reveal that they're actually incongruously set in the modern world. In T.V. Show, that outside world intrudes on the Western pastiche, while in Big Town Show Down the lawmen are summoned to the big city of Bright Lights to capture master criminal The Creep. There isn't a lot of humor, though I suppose the "ping-ping-PINGngngngng" effect must have provided some laughs back in the day. The cartoon Rapid Romance is a rather obnoxious criticism of nonviolence, in the person of Ricochet's emasculating sweetheart Bunny Hug. No Gandhis allowed here. Messick and Blanc do play well off each other, however.

The weakest of the three segments is that of Punkin Puss (Melvin again) and Mushmouse (Morris again), a weak imitation of Hanna-Barbera's Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM, crossed with Li'l Abner and The Real McCoys. Tom and Jerry situations are borrowed in pale imitations, such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde parodies, or getting a third-party dog involved in the mayhem. Punkin Puss is obsessed with feudin' with Mushmouse, who doesn't seem all that interested in the struggle for the most part. It's pretty lifeless and shows none of the energy or personality of the originals, making it seem as if it's just time filler. The episode Pep Hep is striking, if not shocking, for its use of cartoon characters taking speed. The swipes from Li'l Abner become blatant in Catch as Cat Can Day, a feline version of Sadie Hawkins Day that has Punkin Puss on the run.

There's a surprising amount of gun violence in these cartoons. That comes with the territory, to some extent, in Ricochet Rabbit and with Punkin Puss, but Magilla gets himself shot in the face numerous times, especially earlier on in the series; it's possible Ideal asked Hanna-Barbera to restrain the violence a little, because the 1965 and 1966 episodes contain much less of this kind of material. Virtually all of the entertainment value comes from the wonderful voice cast assembled for these cartoons. Melvin, Morris, Messick and Blanc are a dream voice cast and they manage to provoke laughs just from their characterizations and comic timing. The opening sequence (stripped of the Ideal Toy linkage) plays only at the beginning of the first disc, and there are no end titles at all, making these feel rather incomplete as episodes.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The image transfers on these cartoons are a mixed bag. On the positive side, the colors are extremely vivid, and the linework is bold and clean, without evidence of DVNR removing detail. In some sequences, the brush stokes of the paint on the cel can be made out. On the negative side, there is a lot of aliasing and there are plenty of interlacing artifacts to be seen. Topping it off is an unhealthy (and totally unnecessary, given the linework) ladling of edge enhancement that further degrades the picture. Several cartoons (especially That was the Geek that Was, Cradle Robber, Clunko Bunkoand Catch as Cat Can Day) are in dire condition, with dupey appearance, scratches, dirt and flicker and tears visible. Nearly all of the cartoons have visible dirt printed in.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 1.0 mono audio is similarly mixed, with a few episodes sounding murky, as if they were recorded underwater. Hiss and noise are constant throughout, The dialogue is generally pretty clear, however. The music has decent range, though it unsurprisingly tends to be a bit on the shrill side.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 69 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
9 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Boxed Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The bonus materials are a little thin on this set. Most prominent is Here Comes a Star, the 1963 promotional program announcing Magilla Gorilla, hosted by George Fenneman. It's most interesting for a tour of the Hanna-Barbera studios of the period, though it does feature some phonied-up story conferences that prove that although they could do animation, Hanna and Barbera were no actors. It does include the unexpurgated title sequence (though not in color). Bill Hanna and musical director Hoyt Curtin perform a live version of the theme song in a brief featurette; they probably should have rehearsed once before the cameras rolled. Finally, the Mr. Peeble's Pet Shop feature on disc 3 allows one to see brief featurettes devoted to eight of the prominent characters. Finally, there are the eight additional Magilla Gorilla cartoons from 1964, found on discs 3 and 4, which are more of the same.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

A weak offering, with transfers that have some problems. The source materials on a few cartoons are in terrible shape as well.

 


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