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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures
DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures
Warner Bros. // Unrated // August 12, 2008
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted September 1, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

When a fledgling animation studio called Filmation won the license to produce Superman cartoons from DC Comics in the 1960s, they were all of a sudden thrust into the limelight. The success of The New Adventures Of Superman (which would soon morph into The Superman/Aquaman Hour Of Adventure) lead to Filmation winning a few more licensed properties from DC Comics to be developed into cartoons - The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Justice League Of America and The Teen Titans. These less iconic heroes appeared in various short cartoons that were used to separate the Superman and Aquaman headlining adventures that made up the bulk of that show's running time. That said, while it's unlikely anyone is going to recognize The Atom before Superman, these are definitely classic comic book characters that are completely worthy of their own animated adventures.

Warner Brothers, who currently own DC Comics, have delved deep into the Filmation vaults and dug up eighteen cartoons - three episodes from each of the six series represented here - and thrust them onto a nostalgia hungry public as the two-disc DC Comics Superheroes - The Filmation Adventures!

Here's a peak at what lurks beneath the glossy yellow slipcase packaging adorned with three-dimensional old school comic book artwork...

DISC ONE:

The Atom:

Ray Palmer might seem like an ordinary average guy on the surface but his career as a university professor helped him develop the ability to shrink down to microscopic size whenever trouble came calling. As the tiny hero known as The Atom, Palmer can use his size changing powers to fight crime in various inventive ways.

The three The Atom cartoons included are: Invasion Of The Beetle-Men / The Plant Master / The House Of Doom

The Flash:

The fastest man alive is Barry Allen, better known to comic book fans around the world as The Flash. Allen gained super-speed after falling victim to a chemical spill. Now able to run faster than anyone else on Earth, Allen uses his powers to fight the good fight and put criminals behind bars.

The three The Flash cartoons included are: The Chemo-Creature / Take A Giant Step / To Catch A Blue Bolt

Green Lantern:

Hal Jordan was once a normal man until a group of aliens, The Guardians Of The Universe, picked him to become a Green Lantern. Using a power ring given to him by these aliens, Jordan is able to use his power ring to do all sorts of things - he can fly, he can create projectile weapons, pretty much anything you can think of - as long as what he's fighting isn't yellow!

The three Green Lantern cartoons included are: Evil Is As Evil Does / The Vanishing World / Sirena, Empress Of Evil

DISC TWO:

Hawkman:

An alien from the planet of Thanagar, Hawkman is basically an interstellar policeman who came to Earth to catch himself a crook. Once he got here, he joined the Justice League and decided to stick around for a while. Being a 'hawk man' means that basically this guy can fly around quickly and with great agility. He's also pretty strong and a good guy to have on your side in a fight. For some strange reason, when you use the menu screens to get to the Hawkman cartoons, there's a picture of Birdman there instead. Ooops!

The three Hawkman cartoons included are: Peril From Pluto / A Visit To Venus / The Twenty-Third Dimension

Justice League Of America:

Superman, The Atom, Hawkman, The Flash and Green Lantern are all working together as good against evil as... The Justice League Of America! Stronger together than they ever could be apart, these mighty titans of justice use teamwork to stop the mightiest and most sinister of supervillains. For some reason Aquaman shows up in the intro/opening but never shows up in the cartoon itself.

The three Justice League Of America cartoons included are: In Between Two Armies / Target Earth / Bad Day On Black Mountain

Teen Titans:

Made up of Speedy, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Aqualad, The Teen Titans are sort of the younger version of The Justice League Of America and their powers mirror those of their older mentors/parents. They too use teamwork to stop various villains from making life suck on the planet Earth.

The three Teen Titans cartoons included are: The Monster Machine / The Space Beast Round-Up / Operation: Rescue

How does this material hold up? Well, it's very obviously meant for a younger audience and as such, the stories aren't the most elaborate you're likely to find in the world of animation. They're certainly fun and fairly entertaining but every one of the stories here basically follows the same formula: villain shows up and causes a problem - superhero shows up and stops the villain (none of the cartoons in here run over ten minutes so that's probably at least part of the reason for the overt simplicity of the individual storylines). That's really all that there is to it. The creative talent behind the series tries to spice things up here and there by throwing in some different bad guys for the heroes to fight but the impact that it has on the material is marginal at best.

That said, anyone who remembers this material from when it was on television originally (be it when the series first aired or while it was rerun into the seventies) will get a kick out of it. Brainless or not, these episodes are certainly a nostalgia rush and in terms of the history of comic book based cartoons, they're fairly important as they predate the current Justice League cartoons by decades. They're not as good, mind you, but they did come first!

The animation style might look primitive to today's younger viewing audience but fans of sixties cartoons certainly won't have a problem with the style used in the series. It's a little rough around the edges but it doesn't look any worse than many of the other cartoons that came out around the same time. There's a fair bit of recycled footage here and a fair bit of stock footage used throughout. On top of that, the series aren't always too loyal to the comic book source material but the voice actors lend plenty of dramatic flair to the characters where the animation style doesn't and the end result is an obviously very dated series that is never the less quite enjoyable when judged on its own merits and when kept in the proper context.

The DVD

Video:

While these 1.33.1 fullframe transfers do show their age in the form of some wear and tear and minor print damage, for the most part they look pretty good. The progressive scan transfers are bright and colorful throughout despite some moderate grain present on the source material used here. While the old school animation style used doesn't have the same sort of detail that more modern (and often computer generated) animation has, the image here is crisp, sharp, and about as detailed as you can expect from older, low budget cartoons. The colors are a little bit flat looking sometimes but aside from that there's really not much to complain about here at all, things look just fine in a charmingly low-fi sort of way.

Sound:

Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks are provided in English and Portuguese languages with optional subtitles available in English SDH and Portuguese. For the most part, the English mono tracks sound quite good. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion and the voice actors come through loud and clear without any noticeable problems at all. The levels are properly balanced and the sound effects and score both sound quite good.

Extras:

Disc One is barebones save for some anamorphic menus and episode selection. The second disc contains an interesting featurette entitled Animation Maverick: The Lou Scheimer Story - A Profile Of The Filmation Associates Legacy Under The Leadershp Of Founder Lou Scheimer (39:59). Through interviews with family members, animation historians, people who worked with him and with Lou Scheimer himself, this documentary paints an interesting and touching picture of the man who built Filmation Studios and was responsible for what are now considered a whole lot of classic cartoons. Along the way we're treated to some interesting clips and plenty of behind the scenes and personal photographs that further flesh out the story of what made Scheimer's work and work ethic so interesting and unique.

Additionally, trailers are provided for It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Popeye And Friends Volume 1, the Lego Batman video game and The Smurfs Volume 2.

Final Thoughts:

Warner Brothers' release of the DC Comics Superheroes - The Filmation Adventures collection is a fun blast from the past that will certainly appeal to those who fondly remember this material. It might not always be completely faithful to the comic book source material and it may not even try to push the boundaries of animation, but these simple cartoons hold a lot of odd pop culture charm and this set comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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