In the 1970’s, the ABC network aired a popular series called the ABC Movie of the Week – an original drama for television. If I played the opening show credits, you would immediately recognize the format.
You recognize that, right?
Well, that anthology series became so popular, ABC created an additional movie anthology series … and aired it as part of their Saturday morning cartoon lineup. The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie featured hour-long shows from various animation studios, as well as team-ups between cartoon characters from different studios. In fact, almost every animation house in California – including Hanna-Barbera, Rankin-Bass, Filmation, Calvert Studios and DePatie-Freleng – produced films for this anthology series.
Here’s an example of the Saturday Superstar Movie’s opening credits.
Woah. And if any of those characters and references went past you on the first airing, this promo clip explains what’s going on.
So would you like to see some of the ABC Saturday Superstar movies?
Sure you would!
Here’s one of the oddest mash-ups out there – the Groovy Goolies, a hip version of the Universal Studios monsters, are visited by none other than Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. I kid you not.
The Saturday Superstar Movie also featured “The Mini-Munsters,” an attempt to create an animated Munsters series. Al Lewis reprised his role as Grandpa Munster, which is probably one of the only highlights of this godawful failed pilot.
One of the Saturday Superstar Movie segments included the entire King Features Syndicate lineup – The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Steve Canyon, Flash Gordon and Popeye the Sailor. This segment was entitled “Popeye meets the Man Who Hated Laughter.” The only way I could find the complete film was this four-part YouTube clip, so have at it.
There were some films on the Saturday Superstar Movie that did eventually become Saturday morning cartoon shows – A Filmation-created movie called “Lassie and the Spirit of Thunder Mountain” became the show Lassie’s Rescue Rangers, while a Hanna-Barbera-crafted “Yogi’s Ark Lark” – which featured the 1960’s Hanna-Barbera “funny animals” television universe – became the TV show Yogi’s Gang.
The reverse also happened – several live-action TV shows were redone as animated programs in the Saturday Superstar Movie oeuvre. You could watch a cartoon version of Lost in Space, or That Girl (she went to Wonderland, don’tcha know), or even two episodes of Nanny and the Professor – yes, two animated episodes of a show that only lasted two seasons in prime-time.
Here’s the first ten minutes of the “Lost in Space” pilot. Jonathan Harris reprises his role as Dr. Zachary Smith, and I can’t imagine he did this for any other reason than a fat paycheck. Because I couldn’t get past three minutes of this pilot without feeling queasy. Oh, the pain…
The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie lasted for two seasons, and eventually was phased out of the rotation by 1974. It was a unique experiment – to bring hour-long movies and entertainment to the breakfast-cereal crowd – and today, watching these clips, it seems more of a curiosity.
So what are you waiting for? Go get a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and watch these curiosities! 😀