I wasn’t planning on a theme week but that seems to be how we ended up. First I looked at Fangface, a terrible intro from Ruby-Spears. I followed it up with The Centurions, a good example from the same company on how to do a narrated exposition. However, that was an adventure show and the other show was a comedic adventure show. While getting cleaned up for bed last night I happened to think of a good example of a comedic adventure, but not from Ruby-Spears. None of them were even good, including Plastic Man. No, the best example of what Fangface should have done it came a year earlier…and from their former bosses.
In 1978 Hanna-Barbera gave us Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels. While it still borrows from the Scooby formula I think they changed enough things to ignore that. The Angels didn’t always fight fake monsters and just straight up solved a mystery. Plus they had a superhero. The show began as one of the segments of Laff-A-Lympics before getting their own show in season three…at least according to Wikipedia (question the source). I first saw it as part of USA Network’s Cartoon Express if not in syndication or after getting its own show on ABC so I wouldn’t know. I was pretty young then, about five years old when the show started. Cavey has since showed up in a couple different Flintstones series and most recently in an altered form in the Scoob! movie. So how did they do the same thing Fangface did and get it right?
Having Gary Owens is a good start. No offense to John Stephenson, the narrator for Fangface and a few other Ruby-Spears’ adventure comedies but I don’t think he was cut out for narration. Owens on the other hand started with narration on the radio and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In so he knew how to add the dramatic tone without taking himself too seriously. There’s a reason he was a go-to narrator on many projects while also being the voice of Space Ghost and Blue Falcon. His passing was a huge loss to the industry (though more to his family). Owens doesn’t sound like he’s doing the sales pitch but is actually making the narrator a part of the show–not in the same way as say The Powerpuff Girls; the narrator isn’t being a character. I mean the narration feels like it’s part of the show while Stephenson is putting little acting into his narrating. I’m also not ruling out Owens being given better dialog than Stephenson though.
I think it helps that it’s shorter. Fangface‘s intro is 58 minutes, half of which really didn’t have anything to say. When Scooby-Doo Where Are You? did their narration, there was a song drawing the viewers in (eventually–someday I’ll do a many MANY intros on the Scooby TV shows like I recently did with Transformers) while the theme for Fangface honestly isn’t impressive. Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels on the other hand is around half that length. It used the visuals to introduce the important backstory and the premise along with all four characters. While I complain about some modern intros being too short there have also been intros way too long (no, I’m going to use it tomorrow, but look up the intro to T.J. Hooker sometime. That drags hard, mostly because of how repetitive the theme is.) Captain Caveman‘s intro does what it needs to do and gets on with it while Fangface spends way too long showing the monsters. Plus Cavey’s theme song is much better than Fangface’s.
So now that I’ve beaten my point into the dirt maybe my brain will let me talk about something else tomorrow? Please? This is a fun topic but I want to keep my readers around, you know?
The Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels intro is something that has stayed in my memory since watching the cartoon as a very young kid. It is a short, but catchy intro. Marvel also featured Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels once in their comic book series Hanna Barbera Presents (I think that was the comic book title).
Marvel’s comic book series which featured Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels in one issue was actually titled Hanna Barbera Spotlight.