Sunday, July 07, 2013

Nostalgia Theater: Filmation's Lone Ranger

Disney's Lone Ranger is currently in theaters, and while I enjoyed it immensely, it's not doing so great at the box office. I may revisit that subject down the line, but in the meantime I wanted to delve into the thrilling days of my own yesteryear and look at my first experience with the legendary masked man. While the character has had a long and storied media career in radio, TV, and features, my first exposure to him came not by way of the beloved Clayton Moore TV series (which I only watched fairly recently) but via a short-lived animated series from Filmation entitled The New Adventures of the Lone Ranger. Here's the intro:


Airing as part of a trifecta of classic heroes under the umbrella title The Tarzan-Lone Ranger-Zorro Adventure Hour, the show premiered on CBS in 1980, and was beset by the usual travails endemic to Filmation: limited voice cast, extremely limited animation. Even still, it was also kind of the last time we saw these characters translated to animation without the bells-and-whistles of needing to "reinvent" them for modern audiences. These were relatively faithful adaptation of the characters in their original milieus, with their original supporting casts.

The Lone Ranger portion of the show aired separately in Saudi Arabia around '85-'86, when I was in first grade, and I just loved it. Back then I didn't notice the flaws in the production, I just appreciated it for what it was. Starring the voice of William Conrad, the go-to Voice of God for countless productions, in the title role (though he's credited pseudonymously as "J. Darnoc"), each episode had him and partner Tonto bringing some western-style ne'er-do-wells to justice, the riding off into the sunset as bystanders wonder who that masked man was.

Each ep would also end with a thirty-second "lesson" about life in the Old West delivered by one of the two leads, and I ended up picking up lots of little factoids from these quickies. Filmation's New Adventures of the Lone Ranger, which included a total of 28 installments, made their way to DVD in 2007 in two sets, and I used the occasion of the new movie to break 'em out and watch with my boys (my oldest is the same age I was when I first saw it). While the original releases are now out-of-print and expensive, episodes of Filmation's Lone Ranger were put out last year in a budget release that's an easy recommendation.

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