Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Getting to the Core of Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth

This is another show that I shouldn't really have any memory of, given that it was cancelled more than ten years before I was born. Nonetheless, thanks once again to Saudi TV being more than a decade out-of-date, I got to see Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth during the early '80s, when I was exactly the right age for both the show and the concept to become permanently imprinted in my frontal lobe. The series took its name and inspiration from Jules Verne's classic adventure novel, but it clearly owed more to the 1959 feature adaptation starring James Mason and released by 20th Century Fox (which also produced the 'toon). For an overview of the premise, look no further than the intro below, with narration by the late, great Ted Knight:


The animated Journey to the Center of the Earth debuted on ABC on September 9, 1967, and eked out seventeen episodes over the next two years. As explicated in the video above, each week saw Professor Lindenbrook (Knight) and his team of erstwhile associates trying to make it back to the Earth's surface, all the while encountering all manner of lost civilizations, dangerous creatures, etc. in their travels. It was riveting stuff for four-year-old me, and it's stayed with me right up to now. It also planted the seed at a very early age for my love of Verne in particular and science fiction literature in general. Eventually I would seek out 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (also a feature starring James Mason), The Time Machine, and many other of the author's other famous works.

This was such a simpler time for kidvid, when you could have a cartoon that told a straightforward story with roots in literature, and that was it. No reflexive need to make it "toyetic" to sell merchandise, and no need to dumb the material down (note that there's a difference between "simplifying" and "dumbing down"). As a point of comparison, just look at the current Journey feature film franchise. Of course, as with so many of the shows I discuss here in Nostalgia Theater, the animated Journey to the Center of the Earth is largely forgotten today, forty-five years after it lasted aired on ABC. As far as I know, Fox doesn't have any plans to put the thing out on home vid, so it again falls to YouTube to fill that void. You can catch the first part of the first ep below, and follow the breadcrumbs back to the surface from there:

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