Q & A: The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Shazzan

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

Do you remember a show that had real actors, but would combine animation as well, and it was about Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and Becky?
Cindy

The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a half-hour drama series aired on NBC during the 1968-1969 season. It ran from 7-7:30PM opposite Lassie on CBS and Land of the Giants on ABC. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the series combined live-action sequences with animation. It starred Michael Shea as Huck, Kevin Schultz as Tom Sawyer and Lu Ann Haslam as Becky Thatcher with Ted Cassidy voicing the villainous Injun Joe.

A February 6th, 1967 article in The Los Angeles Times suggests that the series was at the very least considered for the 1967-1968 season [1]. A July 24th, 1967 article in the same paper discussing the success of Hanna-Barbera Productions revealed that the company had filmed two live-action pilots but couldn’t sell them. The New Adventures of Huck Finn would be halfway between animation and live-action, much like Gene Kelly’s “Jack and the Beanstalk” special (produced by Hanna-Barbera) broadcast February 26th, 1967 on NBC.

The New Adventures of Huck Finn
The New Adventures of Huck Finn – September 14th, 1968
Copyright © TV Guide, 1968 [1]

The article quoted Joe Barbera speaking about The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: “When you say the word ‘cartoon,’ people think of children only, and we limit ourselves–although plenty of adults watch cartoons. We think combining the live action with the animation will give our company a special identification” [3]. Added Bill Hanna, “And do you know the clothes from that period are ‘mod’ today? The kids are wearing the same high-gaiter shoes now that Huck and Tom wore then” [4].

Critics were not at all impressed with the series. “An ideal time to turn off the set and read the stories to the little loved ones,” wrote Bob Williams of The New York Post. Said Rex Polier of the Philaldephia Bulletin: “tried, but failed to achieve the wonderful whimsy of animation by Walt Disney.” C.J. Skreen of the Seattle Times was more scathing, writing that “partisans of the greatest American novel are not likely to take lying down what the Hanna-Barbera cartoon factory has done to Huck Finn.”

One positive review came from Revo Baker who, in the Dallas Morning News, called the series “beautifully executed.” George Gent, writing for The New York Times, was more ambivalent:

Any claims to resemblance between this and Mark Twain’s brainchild should be grounds for libel. True, Huck, Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and Injun Joe are the principal characters, but the program soon deserts the real world of Mississippi for the animated Ireland of fantasy with leprechauns, magic shillelaghs and fake brogues.

Presumably future adventures will take place in other mythical kingdoms. It’s harmless enough, but lacks the fey quality that might have made it memorable. [6]

The series premiered on Sunday, September 15th, 1968 and ranked dead last (86th out of 86 programs) for the week [7]. Each week, Huck, Tom and Becky would find themselves in a fantastic new land filled with fantastic people, Injun Joe always chasing after them.

The New Adventures of Huck Finn
The New Adventures of Huck Finn – September 14th, 1968
Copyright © TV Guide, 1968 [2]

A total of 20 episodes were produced and aired during the 1968-1969 season. The last new episode was broadcast on Sunday, February 23rd, 1969. The final repeat aired on September 7th, 1969.

Do you know the name of the series which featured “Kabooby” the flying camel? I think it may have been “Prince of Persia” or something like that.
Philip

Kaboobie the flying camel was a character on a Saturday-morning cartoon called Shazzan. The half-hour series was produced by Hanna-Barbera and broadcast on CBS from 1967 to 1969. The title character was a 60-foot-high genie who could be summoned by twins Chuck and Nancy by combining the two halves of a magical ring.

Unfortunately, when the two first put the ring together they were sent back in time several centuries. Shazzan needed their help to find his true master. Each week Chuck and Nancy would find themselves in trouble and summon Shazzan for help. As much fun as it must have been to fly around on Kaboobie, I’m sure Chuck and Nancy would have much preferred being able to return home.

Warner Archives released Shazzan on DVD in April 2012.

Works Cited:

1 “Inside TV: ‘Death of a Salesman’ Will Be Repeated.” Los Angeles Times. 6 Feb. 1967: D27.
2 Humphrey, Hal. “Cartoon Creators Drawing Profits.” Los Angeles Times. 24 Jul. 1967 D28.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Unless otherwise noted, reviews from the September 23rd, 1968 edition of Broadcasting, “Critics vs. new TV season,” Pages 42-43.
6 Gent, George. “A Rare Souffle.” New York Times. 16 Sep. 1968: 94.
7 Gowran, Clay. “TV Today: Only 3 New Series in Top Ten in Nielsen Count.” New York Times. 8 Oct. 1968: B21.

Image Credits:

1 From a special NBC advertising section in TV Guide, September 14th, 1968, np.
2 From TV Guide, September 14th, 1968, Page 38.


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