Filmation (1968), Classic Media/Genius (July 31, 2007), 2 discs, 363 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $26.95
The redheaded, teenage comic book icon engages in innocent hi-jinks with his pals in the all-American town of Riverdale.
The Sweatbox Review:
Filmation got its start in 1966 with The New Adventures Of Superman, a ratings leader that immediately put the studio on the Saturday morning map. They would find even greater success, though, in 1968 with a much different comic book adaptation. The Archie Show easily surpassed everyone’s expectations, at one time gaining a monstrous “55” share in the Nielson ratings with its charming blend of humor and innocent Americana.
America’s typical teenager, Archie Andrews, started out in the pages of MLJ’s Pep in 1941, a creation of John L. Goldwater and artist Bob Montana. Pep had originally featured a variety of features that included superheroes like The Shield. Archie was just another piece of fodder for the back pages, but it was not long before his popularity saw him take over the cover of the comic book, and then the whole company. MLJ changed its name in 1945 to reflect the property they were most known for, and they have been known as Archie Comics ever since. Over the decades, Archie and his friends at Riverdale High have been spun off into countless comic books, and their success continues today. Every decade, the look of the characters has been updated, and the props seen in the strip have been changed to reflect the times. But at its core, the line of comics has always been about one thing: the relationships between the characters. The eternal dilemma of Archie having to decide between two beautiful girls— sweet blonde Betty or scheming brunette Veronica— has been in place for most of the life of the strip, augmented by the musings of hungry pal Jughead and the bullying craftiness of Archie’s rival Reggie. It was this dynamic that appealed to CBS programming executive Fred Silverman, who was anxious to move away from the violent superhero shows that parent groups were protesting at the time. The well-established personalities and conflicts between the characters made the show a natural to adapt to television, and Filmation was enlisted for the job.
Thus, the characters were modified just slightly for ease of animation (notably Archie lost the tic-tac-toe grid from the side of his head), and they appeared in a format familiar to thousands of comic-reading kids. The new TV show featured two main stories (that used Saturday morning’s first laugh track), plus the introduction of a new dance followed by a song sung by The Archies, and random gags that book-ended the stories much like in the comics. The musical addition to the show proved to be perhaps the key element of its mighty success. The show’s songs were produced by the man behind the Monkees, Don Kirshner, with the bubblegum pop numbers earning their own album and single releases. Much is often made of this musical success, and one cannot deny its impact, but I would argue that the show’s popularity owed more to the time-proven likeability of its cast.
The show is clearly a product of its times, making it delightfully nostalgic even for someone who wasn’t alive yet when it first aired. Right from the opening’s psychedelic strobing lights which could very well trigger an epileptic seizure, to the far-out dialog of the characters and the bubblegum pop songs, this is thoroughly a Sixties show. It is also a thoroughly Filmation show, with the addition of a corny sidekick character, in this case Jughead’s dog Hotdog. I don’t know when Hotdog first appeared in the comics, but I don’t think he ever supplied as much commentary as he does in these stories. The worst jokes and lamest puns seem reserved for him, so that taking him out of the show would result in far less cringing. Nevertheless, he is not overexposed, and the gentle humor seen throughout the show is a refreshing thing in a time of increasing crassness and cynicism in many of today’s cartoons. The other Filmation staple seen here is the use of recycled animation, especially noticeable in the song sequences.
The cast is generally well chosen, with Dallas McKennon particularly providing lively but fairly natural readings as Archie, very suiting of an “everyteen” character. There are a couple of somewhat jarring voices, though, with Howie Morris playing Jughead maybe a little too broad, and Veronica getting a very Southern belle-type of voice that also seems a little too “cartoony”. This was likely done to help differentiate Veronica from Betty, as they were both done by Jane Webb, and you will likely notice that Veronica’s voice is basically Betty with a drawl.
While the romance angle from the comics is largely downplayed on the cartoon, this is otherwise a faithful adaptation of the comic book. The mixture of good jokes and silly ones is about right, as are the scenarios that see the kids go on field trips, compete in such events as a hot rod drag race, and interact with other favorites from the strip such as the kids’ parents and friends like Dilton Doily. While I at first found the stories to be straight-forward and mediocre, the more I watched them the more I appreciated their simple charms. Before I knew it, I was eight years old again and enjoying the adventures of the teens from Riverdale. This show is undeniably a classic, from the standpoint of being a landmark comic adaptation, a Saturday morning hit, and a show that elevated Filmation to the next level of popularity. It is easy to see how its success resulted in many more versions in later years, including Archie’s Comedy Hour (Starring Sabrina, The Teenage Witch), Archie’s Fun House, Archie’s TV Funnies, and U.S. Of Archie. Sabrina And The Groovie Goolies was spun off as well; and it is unlikely that Josie And The Pussycats would have ever been produced by Hanna-Barbera if not for the cartoon success of Josie’s comic book cousins. Archie had a lasting effect on Saturday mornings, leading a shift away from violence and towards comedy, not to mention the use of popular music. Who would have guessed that a comic book character that had already been around for over twenty years could exert such influence?
Is This Thing Loaded?
Come On Let’s Go With The Archie Show is a 25-minute interview with Filmation producer Lou Scheimer, who is becoming quite a familiar face on DVD supplements this year in the wake of all those glorious BCI sets. Andy Mangels is again on hand to direct this one (Reed Kaplan produced this time), giving off-screen coaxing to Lou to describe how the show came about and generally offer interesting reminiscences. He notes that John Irwin, who played Reggie on the show, went on to even greater things as the voice of He-Man many years later. He also discusses how the show evolved into later versions, revealing that his own favorite was U.S. Of Archie. I particularly appreciated his discussing of how Filmation had inadvertently used a comic strip without permission on Archie’s TV Funnies, a story I had read before but enjoyed hearing from Lou.
The Gallery provides several model sheets from the show, and the Jukebox feature on each disc gives viewers the chance to jump to the song on each episode. Lastly, two episodes are offered alternate Effects And Music Only audio tracks
Genius has put together a nice-looking package for this first Archie set. The digipack comes wrapped in a clear slipsleeve that slides over the top to help make for a “cel” look. The discs inside look like 45 RPM records, which is a nice touch. Very cool is the reproduction of 1969’s Everything’s Archie #1, which has a story of the Archie gang visiting Filmation and meeting the creators of the cartoon! Following the six-page story, a small selection of photos from Filmation is offered, as well as information on the show and its cast. The comic is rounded out with an episode guide, subscription information (for the comics), and an ad announcing that more Archie releases are planned for 2008!
The packaging, like the menus on the discs, contains a combination of modern Archie images and the animated versions, which somehow works to emphasize the timeless appeal of the characters. However, I did find it odd that the modern look was emphasized so much more than the animated one.
Ink And Paint:
The first episode appears to suffer from some bad DVNR, with outlines disappearing when characters are in motion, but this clears up in future episodes. Generally, the shows look pretty spiffy considering their age. The rapid production schedule resulted in numerous physical artifacts in the filmed image, even though the show was never animated overseas, as is made quite clear in this DVD transfer. Colors remain bright after all these years, though there is some video noise apparent at times. This may be a converted PAL transfer, judging by the ghosted images apparent when pausing the disc, and runtimes that are a little less than what has appeared on the compilation DVDs available from the Archie Comics website.
Note: As mentioned in the accompanying booklet, the dance and song segments from Episode #9 had to be taken from a video source rather than the original elements, and consequently the video quality of this part of that episode is inferior.
I have seen reports of audio speed-up on these discs, and though my ears are not well attuned to PAL speed-up, it would be consistent with what I saw on the video side of things. Aside from that, the audio is typical for the era, a little tinny but perfectly fine. The songs take center stage of course, proving they have just as much appeal now as they did then.
A Spanish track is also available.
I have the four DVD’s that the Archie website has offered for a while, but I had only skimmed them. With this DVD release of the entire original show, I finally was moved to give the series a closer look, and I’m glad I did. In conjunction with the past year-or-so’s worth of Filmation DVD releases from BCI, Warner and Paramount, it really was essential that this series be made available for Filmation fans on a wide basis. It captures the charm of the classic characters, while adding bubblegum music that is every bit as fun as the stories themselves. Add in the special packaging and a good interview segment, and you have yourself a nice DVD set.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?