Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Animated Gilligan

The passing of actor Russell Johnson earlier this week got me thinking about my fondness for his most famous role, Professor Roy Hinkley on the classic TV series Gilligan's Island. The travails of the various Gilligan stars in trying to out-swim their Island characters are already quite well chronicled elsewhere, so I won't reprise that song here, but one thing that's for certain is that while the series lasted a brief three seasons (1964-1967), it left enough of a cultural mark that its stars had plenty of opportunities to reprise their signature characters via cameos, reunion movies, and, as we'll see below, a pair of animated shows in the '70s and '80s.

First up was The New Adventures of Gilligan, a Filmation production that aired on ABC Saturday mornings from 1974 to 1977. As was their wont for these sorts of shows (and as they'd done just a few years earlier with the Star Trek 'toon), Filmation execs managed to recruit the vast majority of the live action cast into voice acting duty, with Bob Denver back as Gilligan, Alan Hale Jr. in as the Skipper, and Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, and Johnson returning as the millionaire Thurston Howell III, his wife, and the Professor. Notably MIA were Dawn Wells and Tina Louise, with country gal Mary Ann and movie star Ginger voiced by actress Jane Webb. Here's the intro:

The New Adventures of Gilligan actually had a decent run for kidvid, lasting twenty-four episodes over the course of two seasons (with a third season consisting entirely of reruns). But amazingly enough, that still wasn't the end for the Islanders. Three made-for-TV Gilligan's Island reunion movies aired on NBC (making Gilligan one of the rare properties to air on all three nets) in 1978, 1979, and 1981 (the last of which stranded the Harlem Globetrotters on that island -- don't ask), and then in 1982, the castaways returned to CBS via Filmation's second Saturday morning effort, Gilligan's Planet. In case the title isn't explanatory enough, you can check out the opening below:

So weird that something like that exists, but there it is. (Also amusing to me: the person in the comments section at YouTube who declares, "I don't consider this canon." Okay. Thanks.) Anyway, unlike the previous animated show, Gilligan's Planet got actor Dawn Wells back as Mary Anne, but Tina Louise was still absent (as she would be for most post-series Gilligan efforts) so Wells did double duty as Ginger. This series ended after thirteen eps in September of 1983. The show didn't necessarily last that long, but by bringing a whole new generation of kids into the folks, it probably added several years worth of mileage to those omnipresent syndicated reruns of Gilligan's Island that so many of us grew up on. And thanks goodness for that.*

*Not saying that ironically. I dug the show.

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