Package shows: Tarzan, Batman, Zorro, and the Lone Ranger

Today’s package show look is at the various late 70s/early 80s series primarily featuring Batman, Tarzan, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro. Between 1976 and 1982, these heroes, plus others, were repackaged into various shows, most airing on CBS, and all produced by Filmation. While “Tarzan and the Super 7” was the longest-running package format, all of their variants include:

  • The New Adventures of Batman
  • Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
  • The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour
  • Tarzan and the Super 7
  • Batman and the Super 7
  • The Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour
  • The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour

*Whew*!

Given the above, I’ll look at each major hero and (if any) their supporting segments.

Tarzan

The main center of all the package series variants, Tarzan debuted in 1976 in his own stand-alone half-hour show.

Unlike the famed classic Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films that cemented the popular image of Tarzan as a, well, Tarzan-speaking strong guy (“me Tarzan, you Jane”), this series decided to keep closer in line with the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs books. As such, Tarzan spoke proper English, and didn’t have a chimp named Cheeta as a companion. Several episodes were also adapted from Burroughs stories. 36 episodes in all were produced, airing as four original seasons’ worth of material (and a few in reruns).

After airing as a solo show in its first season, Tarzan was teamed up with Batman’s show in 1977 to create “The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour.”

Here’s the opening credits for the Tarzan half-hour series:

Batman

The Masked Manhunter wasn’t exactly absent from TV in 1977, given he appeared over on ABC in the long-running “Super Friends” series. Still, someone decided that Batman needed a new stand-alone show, and so “The New Adventures of Batman” was born.

Filmation was the studio that made this series, which aired on CBS. However, thanks to the rights to several Bat-villains tied up with “Super Friends,” this show wasn’t able to use the Riddler or Scarecrow, save in the opening. It’s also why the Harlequin of Hate, the Joker, wasn’t a member of the Legion of Doom. This was the second Batman series Filmation produced; they’d made a show starring the Caped Crusader in the late 60s.

Besides the Dynamic Duo, Batgirl also appeared in this series. Also in each episode was Bat-Mite, the pesky extra-dimensional magical imp. Like his comics self, Bat-Mite was a big Batman fanboy who wanted to “help” his hero, but usually made things worse.

Adam West and Burt Ward, the stars of the live-action 60s series, voiced their characters for this series. Olan Soule and Casey Kasem, the longtime pre-1990s animation voices of Batman and Robin, had voiced the characters for Filmation’s earlier Batman series, but had moved to voicing Hanna-Barbera’s versions by this point.

After airing in early 1977 as a stand-alone half-hour, Batman joined up with Tarzan in the fall of 1977 for “The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour.”

Its legacy as a show isn’t much, aside from West moving to “Super Friends” late in its run to assume the voice of Batman. (Soule stayed with the show, but as the voice of Professor Stein, one-half of Firestorm.) Bat-Mite didn’t appear as a recurring character in animation again until “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

Here’s the opening to Batman’s half-hour show.

Tarzan and the Super 7/Batman and the Super 7

In 1978, “The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour” was expanded to include several new segments, and renamed “Tarzan and the Super 7.” This is a rare instance where the Darknight Detective didn’t get top billing in a TV show or film. Besides the two stars, the new segments included:

  • The Freedom Force: Isis (from “The Shazam/Isis Hour” of 70s fame) appears here, where she’s revealed to have founded her own superhero team.
  • Jason of Star Command: A spin-off of earlier Filmation live-action series “Space Academy,” this was a sci-fi space series featuring James Doohan (Scotty from “Star Trek”). The show’s second season saw Doohan leave, however, to work on the filming of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
  • Manta and Moray: A pair of married underwater/aquatic heroes that fought crime. Like Aquaman, Manta could communicate with aquatic creatures, and needed water occasionally to survive.
  • Superstretch and Microwoman: Another married superhero team, Superstrech had stretching powers, while Microwoman had shrinking ones. I’ve written about this segment earlier.
  • Web Woman: A mix of Spider-Man and DC Comics’ Insect Queen, Web Woman was a heroine who thanks to an alien ring, could assume the powers and abilities of various insects.

In 1980, the series moved to NBC, and aired under the name “Batman and the Super 7” for one final season. “Jason of Star Command” was dropped, along with Tarzan (spun off into yet another package show). After this show’s cancellation, Batman went without a solo animated series for another decade, until the 1992 debut of “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Here’s the openings for “Tarzan and the Super 7” and “Batman and the Super 7.”

The Tarzan/Lone Ranger (and Zorro) Adventure Hour

1980 saw Tarzan split off into his own hour-long show, co-starring with the Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger, of course, was no stranger to TV, with his theatrical/early television shorts having become a TV staple. The series saw Tonto voiced by a Native American actor, Ivan Naranjo. Naranjo played Native American characters in various TV shows and films, both comedies and dramas.

In 1981, the series expanded to include Zorro, engaged in further adventures in the American Southwest. Wikipedia says Japanese studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha produced this series. TMS is the high-end animation studio that did a lot of the best animated material on American TV in the late 80s and 90s.

This show finished its run at the end of the 1981-82 season.

Here’s the openings for the Lone Ranger and Zorro.

 

On DVD/digital video

To summarize the home video situation for “Tarzan and the Super 7” (and its variants):

  • Batman’s show has been released in its entirety to DVD as a box set.
  • Tarzan’s show has yet to be released; I assume a DVD release would be up to Burroughs’ estate (the right holders to Tarzan).
  • Zorro and the Lone Ranger have been released to DVD.
  • “Jason of Star Command” and “The Freedom Force” are on DVD. However, a lawsuit from DC Comics alleging infringement has kept “Manta and Moray” and “Superstretch and Microwoman” out of circulation since the shows ended their runs. Supposedly, DC felt the former was too close to Aquaman/Mera, and the latter too close to Plastic Man. No word on Web Woman, but maybe Marvel wasn’t pleased, either?

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