While I'll readily admit that Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle
is the pinnacle of kids shows from the 60's, being both outrageously funny
and popular with kids and adults (what baby-boomer can't recite reams of
dialog from the show "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat...")
for my money Ward's George of the Jungle comes in a close second.
First broadcast in 1969 on Saturday mornings on ABC, the show only had
a brief seventeen installments (which ABC kept re-running over and over
for three years) which are still fondly remembered. Classic Media
has now released the entire series on a two DVD set which proves that this
final Jay Ward produced TV show (he went on to do TV commercials) are just
as funny now as they were over 35 years ago.
in format to the Bullwinkle Show, the half-hour George of the
Jungle TV show actually consisted of three 7 or 8 minute segments.
The lead was, naturally George of the Jungle, followed by an adventure
with Super Chicken, and rounded up with Tom Slick.
All three programs featured self-contained stories, so there wasn't the
chance for sprawling multi-part adventures like Moose and Squirrel were
able to have. This is the show's greatest weakness as some of George's
adventures end just as they start to get going.
George was easily the funniest segment of the three cartoons
that made up the show. Watching variety shows as a kid, it was hard
to avoid the Tarzan parodies, which were a staple of the genre. Most
of these featured a Tarzan who was unathletic, weak, and ineffective.
While they were mildly amusing, even at the time I remember thinking that
the writers just didn't get it. A weak Tarzan is just dumb (how would
he survive) but a strong, dumb Tarzan, now that's funny! That's what
George is, a powerful brute of a man whose very limited intelligence is
the source of the show's comedy. George is married to Ursula (reputedly
named and designed after Ursula Andress) whom he refers to as "fella" and
"that strange-looking guy who never shaves." His pet elephant is
Shep, though George thinks he's a "big grey peanut-loving doggie", and
his best friend is an ape named Ape who talks with a cultured Ronald Coleman-style
voice and is much more intelligent than George. Each week some minor
problem will strike, which George invariably makes even more disastrous
before the final resolution. Filled with groan-inducing puns, often
brilliant dialog, and absurd situations, these cartoons are a laugh riot.
up is Super Chicken. This superhero parody successfully skewered
comic heroes nearly as thoroughly as George does jungle films. When
Henry Cabot Henhouse III drinks his special tonic (served in a martini
glass) he transforms into Super Chicken, protector of the weak. Aided
by his lion-butler Fred, every episode SC solves some outrageous crime.
In one of the early episodes he recovers the state of Rhode Island, which
had been stolen by a super-criminal. For some reason the jokes don't
fly quite as thick in this cartoon, making it not as hilarious as George's
adventures. The highlight of the show is often SC's weekly admonishment
to Fred: "You knew this job was dangerous when you took it."
final cartoon is the weakest segment of the show, Tom Slick.
Tom is a clean-cut, all-American race car driver who manages to triumph
over the evil drivers who try to sabotage the races he enters. A
do-it-by-the-numbers show feels like an afterthought. The puns were
more obvious (in one episode Tom races against Baron Otto Matic) and thought
some of the set-ups are quite funny; the cartoon never seems to follow
Even with Tom Slick having one cylinder not firing, the whole
George of the Jungle show is a lot of fun. While the lack of
continued adventures means that there's less satire than Bullwinkle's show
the upside is that there's not a lot of time to set up the plot, so each
installment really hits the ground running.
The entire 17 episode series of George of the Jungle come on two DVDs
that are housed in an attractive custom case. The width of a single
keepcase, this thick board container opens to reveal clear plastic disc
holders on each side for the DVDs and a nice scene of George swinging into
a tree underneath.
This show comes with a Dolby Digital two channel mono soundtrack that
is pretty much what one would expect from a vintage children's show.
The range is a bit narrow and the show sounds sparse when compared to today's
shows, but the audio reproduces the dialog and sound effects sufficiently.
The full frame image looks very good though not exceptional. The lines
are tight and the contrast is fine, but the colors are a little dull and
not as bright as I'm sure they were when the show was first broadcast.
The prints used for the transfer were in good condition though there were
a few dirt specks here and there. On the digital side of things there
is some minor aliasing but other compression artifacts were absent.
This set also features the original pilot for George of the Jungle
and Super Chicken. These were fun to watch, and had some
differences from the cartoon as it was broadcast. George was
pretty much the same, though Ursula is refered to as "Jane". Super
Chicken had the most changes. His secret identity in the pilot
was that of millionaire Hunt Strongbird Jr., he didn't need to drink his
Super Chicken tonic to change, Fred didn't know his secret identity, and
the show's catch-phrase "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it"
isn't uttered. A nice look at the shows, though I can't help wondering
what happened to Tom Slick's pilot.
Just as funny as it was over 35 years ago, George of the Jungle
is a classic cartoon show and having the entire series in one nice DVD
set is a treat. Animation fans young and old alike will enjoy this
set of seventeen all-too-brief episodes. Highly Recommended.