Sunday, July 03, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Filmation's Tarzan

Just under three years ago, with Disney's big budget bomb The Lone Ranger in theaters, I used this space to discuss the animated Lone Ranger series produced by Filmation in the 1970s. Well, with a similar big screen offering for fellow classic character Tarzan now in mulitplexes, I thought I'd take a look back at the time the Jungle Lord too got the Filmation treatment. Premiering on CBS in fall of '76, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle dispensed with the general perception of the character as a monosyllabic galoot in favor of the educated adventurer that was in the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Here's the intro:

Voiced by Robert Ridgely (who would go on to also lend his tones to Filmation's Flash Gordon in 1979), Tarzan had the usual Filmation debits (limited voice cast, limited animation), but it benefited from a richness in storytelling and a desire to stay as true to the Burroughs canon as possible, making this probably the closes onscreen version of Tarzan to the one envisioned by his creator that we've ever gotten. Episodes leaned heavily on the fantasy elements from Burroughs' books that other live action iterations had largely set aside.

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle aired sixteen episodes during its first season, with twenty more episodes added over the next three years. With reruns airing for an additional two seasons, By the time it left the air in 1982, Tarzan had racked up an impressive six seasons, and it also led directly to classic heroes Flash Gordon, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger all getting their turns through the Filmation machine. It would also be the last time Tarzan was animated until the release of Disney's 1999 feature film (and the 2001 TV series inspired by that movie).

Unlike the other Filmation adventure hero series, all of which have been released on DVD over the years by now (some garnering multiple releases), the rights to Tarzan reverted to the Burroughs estate rather than travel with whoever purchased the Filmation library, so it never got an honest-to-goodness home vid release. That changed just a few weeks ago, when Warner Bros. finally put out a DVD and digital release of the first season's sixteen episodes to tie in with both the show's fortieth anniversary and the then-impending release of the new film. At under fifteen bucks for the DVD, it's an easy recommendation.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Back to the Future Happy Meals!

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Mego's Planet of the Apes Action Figures

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Filmation's Lone Ranger

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: SilverHawks -- Partly Metal, Partly Real

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