Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids ran on television, in one form or another, from 1972 to 1985, and in doing so became one of the most popular and enduring children's animated shows of all time. In 1977, during the height of the series' popularity, production company Filmation put out the two of three holiday-themed specials that aired during primetime. The first of these specials--and arguably the best--was Fat Albert's Halloween Special.
Fans of the Saturday morning series will recognize the plot as pretty much the standard adventures of Fat Albert and the rest of the Junkyard Gang. It's Halloween, and Fat Albert and the rest of the guys are trying to get the money for some costumes, but when that plan fails, they resort to what they do best, making things out of discarded junk. As the guys set out for a night of tricks and treats, they are led astray by Rudy's friend Devrey, the sort of stock supporting character that always gets the guys in trouble. Devrey has plans to pull pranks on various old people...because...well...you know...old people are fun to humiliate and terrorize. Unfortunately for Fat Albert and the rest of the gang, Devrey's pranks always seem to backfire on them, getting them kicked out of the movies and having old Mudfoot Brown steal most of their candy. But things take a serious turn when the kids go after Mrs. Bakewell, an old widow who lives in a spooky house by the cemetery.
There's not much to say about Fat Albert's Halloween Special--if you are a fan of the series, or your children like the series, then this episode will make a nice addition to your collection. If you're uninitiated with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, or your only frame of reference is that bad live-action film from a few years back, then you'll need to prepare yourself for animation that will seem pretty poor. Filmation was known for their cost-cutting animation style, and it shows even in this holiday-themed special. But also keep in mind that the animation was never what made Fat Albert great, it was always the characters and the story.
The disc also includes two bonus episodes. "The Prankster" is from the first season of the series, and finds Fat Albert dealing with a kid who loves to pull practical jokes. Of course, the jokes get out of hand, and valuable lessons are to be learned. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was never better than during the first few seasons, in which nearly every episodes was wrapped up with a musical number that recapped the important moral of each show.
The second bonus episode, "The Jinx," comes from much later in the run of the series, after it went into syndication as The Adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. These episodes didn't feature musical numbers or episodes of the Brown Hornet, which became the staple of the series in the late 1970s. Instead, these later episodes featured a character called Legal Eagle--which was literally an eagle--and was terribly annoying. This episode finds the kids visiting a ranch in the country owned by Rudy's aunt and uncle, whose son Rick is prone to bad luck and thinks of himself as a jinx. But when the kids find themselves in danger, Rick discovers that he has what it takes to bring good luck.
Fat Albert's Halloween Special is presented 1.33:1 full frame. The overall picture quality is good, but not great. The colors are vibrant, but the image at times looks like it came from a less than superior source.
Fat Albert's Halloween Special is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. The sound mix is good, with consistent audio levels and no audible drop outs.
Two episodes from the television series (see above).
If you're an adult who is a Fat Albert completist, or you have kids that really enjoy the series, then you may want to consider picking up this disc. Keep in mind that of the bonus episodes, one of them is included in the Season One collection ("The Prankster"), and that the other one is not that good.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]