Warner launched this program a couple of years ago, and other studios have begun following suit. It's a perfect way to start legitimizing those hard-to-find (or hard-to-remember) items that you might see cropping up on old VHS tapes at conventions – some not as legitimate as others. Through Warner, you've got the best version available, and they haven't skimped on their animation packages. (And yes, I know this isn't in alphabetical order.)
Legends of the Superheroes
For a couple of decades, these two television specials haunted fandom – did they really happen? Yes, they did, and not only that, Adam West and Burt Ward returned to their iconic roles as Batman and Robin, leading a version of the Justice League full of pretty much unrecognizable and, sadly, forgettable, actors (the biggest name on the side of good would be William Schallert as "Retired Man").
In the first episode "The Challenge," the heroes have gathered to fete Retired Man – once known as the Scarlet Cyclone. Meanwhile, at the Hall of Doom, the villains, many played by stand-up comics and recognizable sitcom background players, gather to thwart the league and destroy the planet in an hour.
It plays out pretty ridiculously on a studio back lot, with a plot gimmick to quickly strip the heroes of their powers to save on special effects. Broadly written and brightly colored, it's a show that you'd have loved when you were eight. And on that level, it still works. The rest of us have seen too much in the years since, but it's nice to have something on the shelf with superheroes that you're comfortable letting the kids watch. (Sorry – not into showing my six year old The Dark Knight.)
The second episode is "The Roast," and that's one to just gather your friends for a party and watch with your jaws dropped. The less said the better. Amazingly, this DVD actually comes with outtakes! Though it was never rebroadcast and has become a camp legend, someone still maintained extra assets. So if you're a completist, and if you're here, you are, you need to pick this one up.
The Addams Family
When watching this with my kids and I after Thanksgiving, my brother seemed a bit puzzled. He loved the live-action series of the sixties and the movies of the nineties, but couldn't remember an animated series. I had to point out he was two when it came out, and it really hasn't been much remembered other than their appearances, perhaps, on the New Scooby Doo Movies which Cartoon Network and Boomerang have shown from time to time.
Here, none of the live-action show do the voices. Instead, it's Hanna-Barbera stalwart voice actors, but that shouldn't get in the way of enjoying the animated series. Like a lot of animated adaptations of live-action sitcoms, The Addams Family shakes up the "status quo" to both make this version different and take the characters places they couldn't go when bound to soundstages.
Now the family tools around the country in a motorhome that looks suspiciously like their mansion on wheels, bringing their brand of creepiness to people all across the heartland. The original elements have faded, in some places badly, so the visuals can sometimes get low quality.
But when showing this to kids, the important question is, is it funny? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is yes. They're kind of like Bizarros in their logic, and that turning the norms upside down really works for elementary school kids.
Thundarr the Barbarian
When I mentioned this to the podcasters, a hush fell across the table and their eyes brightened. This series is truly beloved, and despite having been produced in an earlier time of limited animation and not great production values, it holds up.
Sort of a melting pot of Conan the Barbarian meeting Flash Gordon with a healthy dose of Star Wars, Thundarr the Barbarian makes the post-apocalypse thrilling and safe for kids. In 1994 (!) a runaway planet split the moon in two, obviously passed too close to the Earth, and pretty much messed things up. Two thousand years later, it's a world of sword and sorcery with a skonch of technology, with the requisite muscle-bound hero, a Princess and a shaggy but lovable monster traveling the land righting wrongs.
It's better than it might sound, and the pedigree on this thing is fantastic. Created by Steve Gerber (Howard the Duck, Omega the Unknown) with character designs by Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, the show also featured writing by Martin Pasko and Gerry Conway, at the time big names in the comics industry.
Watching Thundarr takes me back to a Saturday morning I never had (I was already in high school and working Saturday mornings). I can't really indulge in the Captain Crunch anymore, but I'll take Ookla the Mok.