The Herculoids: The Complete Original Series
review by KC Carlson
I always knew that the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1960s were kinda odd (like super-powered ants and brain-dead detective squirrels —- and that’s just the start), but for the strangest of the strange, you should check out the new Warner Archive Blu-ray collection of The Herculoids: The Complete Original Series. (The studio provided a review copy.)
The show originally debuted on September 9, 1967, on CBS. It centered around the family of Zandor (father), Tara (mother), and young Dorno (son). The alien Herculoids quickly take the role of giant “pets” (or more rightly, protectors) of the family. They include laser dragon Zok, space rhinoceros Tundro, rock ape Igoo, and the shape-shifting Gloop and his son Gleep. These “pets” come together to watch over the space family and protect them from a number of dangerous beasts and other situations, including invading robots, mad scientists, and mutants. Other villainous characters included the Faceless People, Mutoids, Zorbots, Destroyer Ants, Raider Apes, the Mekkano mechanical men, and the Ogs, a strange form of vegetable life.
I loved this show when I was 10. For me, it had just the right balance of stoic heroes (Tundro and Zok) and less serious characters (Gloop, Gleep, and Igoo) for kids at that age.
Typical of Hanna-Barbera shows of this era, not all the details (aka origins) of the Herculoids characters actually make it to the episodes. I never minded this much, as I used my imagination to fill in the blanks of the characters.
This 18-episode collection originally came out in 2011 on DVD, but this recent release is on Blu-ray -— including an all-new Special Feature not on the original DVD set. (It originally was part of the Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s Volume 1 DVD set.)
One other thing I picked up on while researching this piece -— many of the folks listed above discussed The Herculoids as a transitional show, something different from the usual “funny” kids TV shows that had aired on Saturday morning before this show debuted. I know I loved it when I was younger and looking for alternate animation ideas!
Here’s the rundown on these episodes, which originally ran from 1968-1969. (Eleven new episodes, not included here, were produced in 1981 as part of the Space Stars show.)
- The Pirates/Sarko the Arkman
- The Pod Creatures/Mekkor
- The Beaked People/The Raiders
- The Mole Men/The Lost Dorgyte
- The Spider-Men/The Android People
- Defeat of Ogron/Prisoners of the Bubblemen
- Mekkano, the Machine Master/Tiny World of Terror
- The Gladiators of Kyanite/Temple of Trax
- The Time Creatures/The Raider Apes
- The Zorbots/Invasion of the Electrode Men
- Destroyer Ants/Swamp Monster
- Mission of the Amatons/Queen Skorra
- Laser Lancers/Attack of the Faceless People
- The Mutoids/The Crystallites
- Return of Sta-Lak/Revenge of the Pirates
- Ruler of the Reptons/The Antidote
- Attack From Space/The Return of Torrak
- The Island of the Gravities/ Malak and the Metal Apes
Special Feature – The Toth Factor
“The Herculoids: First Family of Planet Quasar” has (in less than five minutes) the rundown on the history of the show. It has contributions from animation folk like historian Jerry Beck, animator Tom Sito, animation writer/historian Earl Kress, animation director Scott Jeralds, animation writer/director Paul Dini, animation director/producer Doug Tennapel, and writer/producer Mark Evanier. Several of these folks also acknowledge the classic SF influence of artist/designer Ray Harryhausen.
The Herculoids has always had a huge cult following among Hanna-Barbera fans, largely based on the fact that classic illustrator Alex Toth created and designed the series. Other shows associated with Alex Toth (in this era) include Space Angel, Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, and Dino Boy in the Lost Valley. His work is a great reason to revisit this classic cartoon.