Sunday, June 01, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Sky Commanders Goes High Concept

Here's another artifact from the endless parade of '80s "good guy group vs. bad guy group" 'toons created primarily as half-hour commercials for merchandising. The "high concept" (pun!) that differentiated Sky Commanders from the pack was its setting: a new mountain range atop the High Frontier, an unstable new continent that's spontaneously sprung up somewhere in the South Pacific. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, Sky Commanders premiered in fall of 1987 as part of the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera syndicated weekend package (which also included reruns of classic H-B shows such as The Jetsons and Jonny Quest). Here's what it looked like:


I always love the names they'd come up with for these characters. It's a group of mountain-climbers? Of course their leader is named Mike Summit. And with a name like Lucas Plague, you pretty much know the baddie leader was destined for a life of unmitigated evil. Battling for possession of the rare new element Phaeta Seven, the Sky Commanders battle the evil Raiders, with its constantly shifting mountain topography, via backpack-fired "laser cables" that allow them to navigate the treacherous terrain. If you're thinking this sounds unmistakably toyetic, congratulations. Wouldn't you know, Kenner had a toyline ready to go. Here's a TV spot:


I actually had that specific toy, the Cable Cannon, that I picked up in a clearance bin a year or so after it first hit shelves. And while the commercial teases you with these things sweeping hither and thither on taut, neon cords, in execution it was usually a tangled mess that was as tough to play with as it was to store. No great shock they didn't really take off. And the animated appendage didn't end up doing much better, with its single season of thirteen episodes playing through the '87-'88 season. I enjoyed it though, and after the complete series became available on DVD through Warner Bros.' godsend manufacture-on-demand service, I had to snake it up. While the schlock-factor is indeed high, for anyone who grew up with it, it'll be worth watching simply because it's there.

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