RETRO DVD REVIEW: Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels

Reviews
by Greg Ehrbar
September 23, 2013 11:00 PM
6 Comments
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Another very popular late '70s Saturday morning cartoon has just reached DVD through Warner Archive and, depending on your attachment to childhood memories, is either a reason for celebration or for an "Ugh." Actually, either way, it still adds up to an "Ugh," flawlessly performed by the great Mel Blanc himself, in one of his last leading cartoon character roles.

Wouldn't it have been weird to be at the network pitch for Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels? "Okay, there’s this caveman guy, but he’s a super hero that’s been trapped in ice for about 2 million years until these shapely young detectives, who happen to be exploring the frozen north in their miniskirts, discover him and he helps them solve mysteries...

"No, it's not another Scooby Doo. Not exactly. It's like Charlie's Angels but with a hairy caveman instead of David Doyle...

"Let me put it another way..."

In 1977, Charlie's Angels was all the rage, along with disco music and Star Wars. Hanna-Barbera worked both into several cartoons of the era, including another series you may think you dreamed but really happened called Casper and the Angels (which I kind of liked anyway). Even Yogi Bear eventually flew into the galaxy and visited floating space discos. (You didn’t dream that, either.)

Captain Caveman looks like one of the Slag Brothers from Wacky Races and must have been the most fun element of the show to animate. Being composed of lines and scribbles, he was the seven dwarfs to the more naturalistic Teen Angels, who presented more of an animation challenge, as with Snow White (this may be the first time Captain Caveman has been compared to Snow White.)

Therefore, sometimes the Teen Angels look wonderful, striking the poses on the model sheets at one moment, but look awkward the next. Such is the result of breakneck production speed at limited budgets, especially when you consider that Captain Caveman was a ten-minute segment sandwiched into the two-hour Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics.

In its premiere year, the two-hour block contained a segment of Laff-A-Lympics, a Scooby Dooadventure, a Captain Caveman and another Laff-A-Lympics. The Scooby segments have been released as the "lost" third season. You can even find pretty much all of the Laff-A-Lympics on various DVDs, and can re-create your Saturday morning paradise. I would suggest frying some bacon to make it a multi-sensory experience.

A few more Captain Caveman shorts were made for the second season, retitled Scooby's All-Stars.You could also root for Cavey and the Angels as competitors on the "Scoobie-Doobies" team in the Laff-A-Lympics segments. In Spring 1980, the Captain got his own half hour. The DVD set pairs two stories into 20 half-hours; 40 total cartoons. This is likely the way the series was packaged for syndication and cable.

Clearly this was a satisfactory, if not phenomenal, success for Hanna-Barbera and ABC. A board game, coloring books, comics and other merchandise graced the store shelves. I even have a card game that features Cavey, Taffy, Brenda and Dee Dee.

The three Angels don't get much time to develop character aspects in the short episodes. The premise itself, in HB tradition, is spelled out during the theme song in 30 seconds by none other than Gary Owens. Like Charlie's Angels, there is a "smart one" in this trio - that would be Dee Dee. (Remember the wonderful Vernee Watson? I recall seeing her as the Bachlorette on The Dating Game!) Brenda comes up with wacky plans and schemes and is voiced by Marilyn Schreffler, who also played Olive Oyl around this time. Taffy (Laurel Page) flirts with Cavey to get him to do brave deeds.

Cavey yells his name a lot. I would imagine millions of kids did, too, though Blanc’s performance of the yell is clearly the same one used over and over. Also used a lot is a transition device with a window and other things flying at the camera. Because of the brevity of each story, they all start with a Teen Angel exposition line: "Well, here we are on a Mississippi Riverboat!" "Golly, it’s groovy to be here in New York City!" It is recommended that a few Captain Caveman episodes be savored at a time, instead of binge viewing, because of these patterns.

There is no real theme song, just some of the background music with Owens, telling us how hilarious and sometimes scary it’s going to be. The first and second season end titles, at least on the DVD set, come from the tail end of Laff-A-Lympics and look like the type was laid over that spin art some of us used to make at the carnival.

The third season end titles have a country sound to them with different credits. There are some fun stories in the mix, including one that finds the Teen Angels back in time to meet Cavey's parents. Unlike Scooby Doo mysteries, which are always supernatural in theme, the stories here are also about jewel robberies and smuggling rings without as many of those disguised ghosts that can inexplicably fly through the air and pick up solid objects even though they turn out to be 16mm films with crude little sound systems.

Zoinks, I’m getting nostalgic. Excuse me now while I fry up some bacon.

EPISODE GUIDE


SEASON ONE (Segments of Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics)

1.              The Kooky Case of the Cryptic Keys - September 10, 1977

2.              The Mixed-Up Mystery of Deadman's Reef - September 17, 1977

3.              What a Flight for a Fright - September 24, 1977

4.              The Creepy Case of the Creaky Charter Boat - October 1, 1977

5.              Big Scare in the Big Top - October 8, 1977

6.              Double Dribble Riddle - October 15, 1977

7.              The Crazy Case of the Tell-Tale Tape - October 22, 1977

8.              The Creepy Claw Caper - October 29, 1977

9.              Cavey and the Kabuta Clue - November 5, 1977

10.           Cavey and the Weirdo Wolfman - November 12, 1977

11.           The Disappearing Elephant Mystery - November 19, 1977

12.           The Fur Freight Fright - November 26, 1977

13.           Ride 'Em Caveman - December 3, 1977

14.           The Strange Case of the Creature from Space - December 10, 1977

15.           The Mystery Mansion Mix-Up - December 17, 1977

16.           Playing Footsie with Bigfoot - December 24, 1977

SEASON TWO (Segments of Scooby's All-Stars)

17.           Disco Cavey - September 9, 1978

18.           Muscle-Bound Cavey - September 16, 1978

19.           Cavey’s Crazy Car Caper - September 23, 1978

20.           Cavey’s Mexicali 500 - September 30, 1978

21.           Wild West Cavey - October 7, 1978

22.           Cavey’s Winter Carnival Caper - October 14, 1978

23.           Cavey’s Fashion Fiasco - October 21, 1978

24.           Cavey’s Missing Missile Miss-tery – October 28, 1978

SEASON THREE (Stand-Alone Half Hour Show)

25.           The Scarifying Seaweed Secret - March 8, 1980

26.           The Dummy - March 15, 1980

27.           Cavey and the Volcanic Villain - March 22, 1980

28.           Prehistoric Panic - March 29, 1980

29.           Cavey and the Baffling Buffalo Man - April 5, 1980

30.           Dragonhead - April 12, 1980

31.           Cavey and the Murky Mississippi Mystery - April 19, 1980

32.           Old Cavey in New York - April 26, 1980

33.           Cavey and the Albino Rhino - May 3, 1980

34.           Kentucky Cavey - May 10, 1980

35.           Cavey Goes to College - May 18, 1980

36.           The Haunting of Hog Hollow - May 24, 1980

37.           The Legend of Devil's Run - May 31, 1980

38.           The Mystery of the Meandering Mummy - June 7, 1980

39.           The Old Caveman and the Sea - June 14, 1980

40.           Lights, Camera... Cavey! - June 21, 1980

Voices Include Mel Blanc, Vernee Watson, Marilyn Schreffler, John Stephenson, Lennie Weinrib, Casey Kasem and Virginia Gregg
Created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears
Directed by Charles A. Nichols, Ray Patterson and Carl Urbano

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6 Comments

  • Floyd Norman | September 28, 2013 11:46 AMReply

    So sorry I offended you, Tom. People often take this stuff so seriously. As cartoonists, we love what we do and we're also highly critical of our own work. We talk this way with each other and perhaps I should not have been so glib here. Again, I apologize.

  • Matt | September 28, 2013 12:39 AMReply

    Captain Caveman was awesome then and is still awesome now. Floyd may apparently regret his time there, but a whole lot of the rest of the world doesn't if you helped make great shows like this.

    I'm sure there are always people who dislike their jobs and don't enjoy the output the company delivers in any job. Disneyland makes lots of kids happy. i bet some mascots hate their job. I'm sure lots of restaurant staff don't like the food they serve out. And with that same line i'm sure everyone in an animation studio doesn't always like the studio output.

    I'm sure this case is going to strike up hostility because 1. the subject matter and 2. we're on the internet. Ever since the revisionist garbage has been running rampant, some of us (myself included at times) can be too harsh in defending studios like Hanna Barbera. The truth has long since be vindicated the general public never did hate them and still don't Most Hanna Barbera's internet critics are the people who have always had an axe to grind and the young people who take what they read on wikipedia and tvtropes as truth. This is most importantly not to say some people never liked it from the start, but given the majority is going to win, it's clear where the majority lined.

    I imagine also given the person in question and the people the above mentioned sites like to base their revising on is the really head-driven animators, aka the people with the axe to grind. Sorry to say that the general public doesn't care much at all for those arguments. Anyone with eyes can tell their is better drawing done in a Disney movie than a Scooby doo episode, yet both have entertained and been loved for decades upon decades. Why? Because the so-called drawing has never detracted the general public away from an animated feature.

    Now what point does this wrap up? It's simple. People have different preferences. The people willing to nitpick and accuse HB's shortcuts as making bad products have their opinion. But they shouldn't be surprised or defensive when they are called out for being a part of the minority. There's nothing wrong with being in a minority. Niche sells. Nascar is certainly not loved by more people than it's hated by, yet it's a fully successful and profitable minority. But when the minority refuses to admit it's a minority and tries to demean the majority by putting them down in some kind of twisted superiority complex it's sad, and it leads to arguments.

    Personally i can't stand Pixar, Toy Story is by far the most lame movie i remember from my childhood. Plus it's implications on hurting the voice acting industry still haven't recovered. But am in a minority? Yes i am. I know this but in the same way that i can dislike something that's popular so can Mr Norman dislike something that's also popular.

    But sadly on certain parts of the internet this would go far less civil. Certain parts of the web would say you're an (insert explitive here) if you prefer Hanna Barbera over Disney or Pixar. Some times they accuse other studios of making bad decisions but not accounting for their own favorites doing the same thing. How in the world is Disney maiming something like the Fox and the Hound story by turning it into something fluffy any different then Hanna Barbera making Moby Dick a super hero. Yes they both massacred their source material but both made entertaining products. Neither should be villified for this, but yet plenty of people will crucify Hanna Barbera on it. And let's not even go into ripoff arguments. Of somehow it's fine to rip apart everything that made a Hanna Barbera show different to grind them to very basic structures, yet when you try to tell them it's true all the same for every comic book and soap opera there has ever been and ever will be, they don't want to hear it.

    It's simply put those kind of attitudes that get people so rilled up and defensive. Now thanks to the fact more normal people use the internet, the spell those opinion folks have casted is dying. In the earlier days you'd have people lampooning things all over and now normal people call them out as to "what was wrong with it". Seriously look up Scrappy Doo youtube videos. Years ago it was all negative, now people defend him, it's marvelous to see.

    We can be civil and share different opinions. No one should be accusing Mr Norman of being a douchebag because he is a minority that didn't appreciate HB. No one should demean me because i'm also in a minority because i dislike Pixar. We should be able to support what makes us like X show more than Y. Or What makes us not enjoy Y and why we think X does it better. Just saying it sucks or is good only leaves us open to people starting fights. Because at the end of the day these are all nothing but opinions. There's no true right or wrong party. And the bottom line being as long as the companies keep making money and people keep talking about the products, they are clearly successful regardless of whether any one yahoo likes it or not.

    I'm going to hop off that soapbox, and i hope if anyone ever stumbles across and reads this wall of text, they can learn something. Different opinions help make the world around, and sometimes we are really too hostile and too closed off. I know i'm guilty of it sometimes too, but i really hope there being a fully spelled out reason why it can happen will make some people break the "spell" that leads to so much wasted arguing on the internet.

  • Jim Korkis | September 27, 2013 11:36 PMReply

    One of the things I've discovered is that every animated film or animated series ever produced is someone's favorite. Once upon a time I dated a young lady who I thought was the sun and the moon and the stars and her very favorite Disney animated feature of all time was "The Aristocats". I tried to point out all the flaws but she still loved it dearly. Eventually, I began to appreciate it more over time because I started to see it through her eyes and how much happiness it gave her. I came to the realization that people love animation for emotional not logical reasons.

    It is important to remember that Hanna-Barbera deserve a huge amount of credit for keeping so many animators employed, especially in the 1970s, when there was no other work available. Unfortunately, they were involved in a some less than stellar productions but they had to produce whatever the networks wanted to buy. Fred Silverman wanted a dog so a more serious mystery solving animated series became "Scooby Doo". I'm glad Floyd and so many others were able to pay their mortgages and take care of their families without leaving animation to work in some other profession.

    I completely understand Floyd's feelings that it was difficult to work on some of these projects, especially after his experiences working at Disney. Bill Hanna did indeed shout "Faster! Cheaper!" He meant it because it was the only way to keep the business going when so many other studios closed. I know that Floyd put everything he could into everything he ever did and that has got to be frustrating at times or as Floyd put it, "hell". I'm sure Floyd does appreciate he has brought much joy into the word over the decades but that doesn't mean he had to love everything he did.

    I think it is important for all of us at this site to remember to be civil. We can certainly disagree. We can certainly share differing opinions. We can certainly correct others. I love being corrected in my Animation Anecdotes column so the true story can get out there. No need for name calling although that seems to be the standard on the internet these days.

    I am not a Captain Caveman fan but twenty years ago when I was babysitting my first nephew, he loved the character because he was loud and violent and funny. My niece preferred "Here Comes the Grump". I would love to have had them watch something else but when Uncle Jim put on his Disney cartoons, they would drift away and ask for their favorites. They still turned out remarkably well surprisingly.

    Tom, I would have preferred if in your comment you had explained why you liked Captain Caveman so that I could look at it differently.

  • Floyd Norman | September 26, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    Simply another awful show I worked on at Hanna-Barbera in the seventies. What hell. At least I was able to pay my mortgage.

  • Greg Ehrbar | September 27, 2013 9:51 PM

    I'm sorry to have inspired you being called a name, Floyd, and never dreamed it would happen as a result of one of my reviews. In the words of Ed Norton, "Why oh why was I blessed with this great talent?"

    Tom, thanks for liking the review, but be nice or I'll shut off our Zenith Quasar 17-inch "works-in-a-drawer" TV right now -- then you'll have to wait a whole week 'til Saturday morning comes around again!

    Let's agree to disagree. One person's fish is another person's... fish.

  • Tom | September 27, 2013 12:35 PM

    Yeah, at least you were able to pay your mortgage, douchebag. Forget the fact that you obviously had a hand in creating someone's childhood, evidenced from the review above. Obviously he appreciated your work, as did I... maybe one day, you can to.

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