Hanna-Barbera (1980), Warner Home Video (May 20, 2008), 2 discs, 279 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $26.98
The rich kid with the heart of gold teams up with Hanna-Barbera’s quintessential detective mutt in this high-concept show.
The Sweatbox Review:
Of all the various iterations of Scooby-Doo that Hanna-Barbera put out on television, this is probably the one I least expected to see on DVD. Not only did Scoob take second billing for the only time on this one, but this show features the much-hated nephew Scrappy-Doo, with no sign of the more popular members of the mystery, Inc. gang, save for Shaggy. In fact, Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy don’t even solve mysteries here; all they do is find themselves in relatively scary (or at least anxiety-producing) predicaments for six or seven minutes at a time. With Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A- Lympics and The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo yet to be released, the choice to put this series out on DVD somehow amuses me. You have to be a really big Scooby fan in order to want to see this version again!
On the other hand, I do admit to an appreciation for being able to see the front-billed star once again. I remember the Richie Rich comics and digests reasonably well, though today’s kids are more likely to remember the Macaulay Culkin movie version that came out in 1994, ironically the comic’s last year of publication. Richie had his start in the first issue of Little Dot in 1953. He remained a back-up character until having a couple of one-shots later in the Fifties, before finally getting his own series in 1960. The road to fame and fortune was long, but Richie went on to become Harvey Comics’ most prolific and popular star. Richie starred in over fifty titles over the course of about thirty years of publication (Harvey went on hiatus for a few years in the Eighties).
And who was Richie, the comic book character? Well, he was the richest little boy in the world, a fellow who wore a red bowtie and shorts, and still didn’t get beat up— just because he was such a swell little guy. Yes, despite his family’s fabulous wealth, Richie remained surprisingly well grounded, generous, and kind. His stories frequently involved his family’s efforts to protect their fortune, or Richie and his friends having fabulous adventures that only money could buy, and yet Richie always remained likeable and the actual themes of his stories were generally more about friendship and family than capitalism.
When Hanna-Barbera decided to jam Richie into a show with their iconic dog detective, a few changes were made. Richie was transformed into a slightly older child, he traded in his shorts for trousers, his bowtie got smaller (and turned blue), and he took to wearing a red sweater with a big “R” on the front. In short, Richie’s look went from being “pansy” to “preppie.” All of the changes were naturally made to help him become more identifiable with the television audience and bring him more up-to-date. The comics, meanwhile, were hamstrung by the necessity of keeping a consistent look, since the old stories were still being reprinted.
The cartoon version runs much along similar lines as the comic book in terms of story material. Most stories have Richie visiting with his friend Gloria (voiced by Nancy “Bart Simpson” Cartwright), when the Rich family fortune is threatened by outside forces. It may be a disgruntled employee, a greedy mad scientist, or even Richie’s nasty cousin Reggie— but no matter the foe, he or she is subjected to the awesome power of the Rich estate security. Gadgets come out of the ground and out of bushes, and when they fail Richie can always count on his maid/bodyguard Irona The Robot to assist him.
Warner has fortunately included the original opening for the show, unlike the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour DVD set. Each episode of this program includes alternating stories of Scooby and Richie, with each star getting three segments. I would have to say that the Richie Rich stories come off best, as they at least bring something fresh. While Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy encounter a dull variety of adversaries (wax factory guy, swamp witch, and that old nugget— a bull in a bullfight stadium), which leads to extremely typical slapstick, Richie is able to exhibit an amazing degree of resourcefulness in order to come out ahead. I wouldn’t say that the scripts for the show are all that great, really, but we do get treated to plenty of dollar sign sight gags, wild inventions courtesy of brilliant Professor Keenbean, and such fun ideas as Irona being replaced by a younger robot maid. On the other hand, the daydreaming of Richie’s dog, Dollar, is more annoying than humorous.
The seven episodes in this set comprise about a third of the episodes created over two seasons for ABC. In 1982, Richie dropped to last billing in a show with Pac Man and The Little Rascals. The Hanna-Barbera version of Richie Rich stayed on the air a total of four years. And Scooby… just keeps going and going, don’t he?
Is This Thing Loaded?
Aside from Trailers for Popeye: Volume 2 on Disc One, and two Scooby-Doo sets and the Speed Racer game on Disc 2, there is just one extra on this set.
The Story Of Richie Rich (9:45) covers the history of the character relatively briefly, though this will likely suffice for most fans. Naturally, the featurette quickly turns its focus on the animated series, with comments from people like story editor Mark Evanier and some of the animation artists, not to mention Mr. Cartoon himself, Jerry Beck; but for good measure, we also get comments from Harvey Comics publisher Sid Jacobson and cartoonist/comic book historian Scott Shaw. Add in some production art, and you have yourself a spiffy little featurette that is perhaps more entertaining than the show itself.
Warner sticks with the ultra slim digipack and overlapping disc design for this release. It looks like they have abandoned the black Hanna-Barbera bar at the top of the package for good, with a money-themed green this time out. (This makes it easier for me to place it on my comic-themed shelf rather than my H-B shelf, I guess.) The disc contents list on the inside of the digipack is invaluable, as it lists each episode with its accompanying stories, and with segments identified by character, whereas the disc menus oddly list only the segment titles and not the episodes or characters. This makes it difficult to navigate to a particular episode (or avoid the Scrappy stories) using the menu only.
Ink And Paint:
Guess what— this show looks almost thirty years old. There’s dust, scratches, and assorted blemishes, but it’s not too bad in that respect. Unfortunately, the image is definitely on the soft side, and colors are dull. Compression work is pretty good, though with a small bit of shimmering apparent.
The single channel mono sound sounds neither better nor worse than one would expect. Dynamic range is of course narrow, but it’s all perfectly adequate for this show. A Spanish track is also available, as well as English subtitles for the hearing impaired.
Last year’s release of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was a “left field” choice that nonetheless left me very impressed. Unfortunately, this year’s surprise release, The Richie Rich Scooby-Doo Show, which will likely garner stronger sales, despite its mediocrity. It was nice to see Richie again, though, and even the Scrappy shows are amiable time-wasters, but I shall be looking forward to seeing what else Warner can put out onto disc for us. While most of their great ones are already out of the vault, there are still a few gems left. In the meantime, you can check out this typical piece of 1980s Hanna-Barbera.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?