Hong Kong Phooey
August 13, 2006

Hong Kong Phooey was a favorite of mine as a kid, mainly because of the jazzy theme song by Scatman Crothers (voice of the character) that dubs him “number-one super guy”. I haven’t thought about it much since, but now, there’s a DVD set of the series.

For those of you too young to remember, HKP was, in his secret identity, a police station janitor. (Oh, and he was a dog, although he walked and behaved like a human, and no one seemed to notice.) When trouble beckoned, he jumped into a file cabinet, got stuck, and after a smack from his sidekick, a striped cat named Spot, came out in his robe and mask. (Spot usually saved the day by getting HKP out of whatever jam he’d gotten into, without thanks or notice by the self-absorbed HKP. Spot also acted like a real animal, unlike HKP.)

Hong Kong Phooey
Hong Kong Phooey
Buy this DVD

HKP drove the Phooeymobile, which looked like a beach buggy with a pagoda top. If he needed it to fly or whatever, he’d pull out a gong, smack it with a karate chop, and the car would become whatever he needed. Regular characters also included a schlubby policeman called Sarge and Rosemary, the wisecracking, lovesick, miniskirted blonde receptionist.

Standard Hanna-Barbera animation art is placed against watercolored, sometimes merely suggested backgrounds. Given that it came out in 1974, it’s not surprising that it was an attempt to tie into the then-current fad for Bruce Lee movies and similar Asian-influenced popular culture.

The Complete Series set contains 31 cartoons (which apparently ran originally as 16 episodes), plus storyboards, three episode commentaries, and a documentary about the making of the show. Those behind-the-scenes looks are always my favorite, because I enjoy the peek behind the creation curtain. This one is refreshingly direct, since the creators mostly talk about how they were professionals, it was a job, and they simply did what they did until it all came together.

Watching an actual cartoon — well, for me, it’s one of those things that may be better off remembered than relived. It’s certainly not something you want to think too much about. In the first episode, HKP is trying to stop car thefts by a gang (of two). He manages to help one of them steal a car, then he gets trapped in a soap bubble. When he fights his way out of it, he falls into his car, where he carefully buckles his seat beat before engaging in an incredibly slow chase.

Young children may be able to relax and go with it more than I can these days. I kept getting caught up in wondering why everyone knows who Hong Kong Phooey is and why they think he’s a great crimefighter. Is everyone in this city an idiot?

5 Responses  
Dan writes:  

Well, yeah. Everyone in that city is an idiot. Couple that with the fact that HKP probably has the best PR team ever pitching for him, and you’ve got hours of mindless entertainment. Man, I used to watch HKP with Charlie Chan and the Chan Clan, mostly because they were on right before my all-time fave, Underdog. I think Jabberjaws was sandwiched in there somewhere too. Then you had like two hours of playtime outside before Space Ghost and the Herculoids. *Sigh* I miss Saturday morning cartoons.

Dan Coyle writes:  

“Is everyone in this city an idiot?”

You could say that about the entire Hanna-Barbera oveure. Fred Flintstone and George Jetson make Homer Simpson look like George Plimpton.

Johanna writes:  

Wow, you’re right — thanks to you both for the reminders. I miss Captain Caveman myself.

Michael May writes:  

Thanks for posting this! I’ve got a bootleg DVD that someone made by recording episodes off of Boomerang or something. It’ll be nice to get a high-quality version where you can actually choose which episode you want to watch.

I loved this show as a kid (my first lunchbox was a Hong Kong Phooey one) and it’s still fun to watch them as an adult, though I agree that it’s all just formulaic silliness.

James Schee writes:  

I liked HKP as a kid a lot. My favorites though were Smurfs, Gummi Bears, Dungeons & Dragons, 80s Superman animated series, Captain N, Galaxy High and Kidd Video!


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