Videocassette recorders were, like any new technology, very expensive when they first came out in the mid-70's. Some of the first models topped $1000 (which would be equivalent to $4000 today). The movie studios at first tried to sue to prevent home video from existing in the first place, but later begrudgingly started trickling out their libraries at the rate of $100 a film. No kidding; for the first few years tape collecting was a very expensive hobby. I can't find information on how much a blank tape set you back, but presumably, if you wanted to record something, the price was high enough for you to have to think it over first.
I'm pointing this out because a recording of Jabberjaw exists.
To refresh your knowledge, this is the extremely weird Saturday Morning response to Jaws about a talking shark that walks on land and talks like Curly Howard. And it came out in 1976, making it most likely to have come from Beta (VHS was still unavailable). You have, for the first time, the ability to preserve anything, and you preserve Jabberjaw. Makes perfect sense.
And it was never taped over! Here we are over 35 years later, and here it is. You can now buy all 16 episodes of Jabberjaw from the Warner Archive Collection, an online-only series of produced-on-demand DVD-Rs of obscure movies and cartoons the stores won't stock. That's all well and good. But it's not the FULL EXPERIENCE....
click pictures for videos
Jabberjaw was a two-act series, so we get the first ad break right after the theme song. The slogan for ABC's Saturday Morning block throughout much of the 70's was "Funshine Saturday," and thanks to this ancient Betamax we can see some of the ultra-rare bumpers that block had. The bumpers starred this....strange half-man-half-sun thing. In the first 5-second gag, he's watering his flowers, but accidentally waters his large feet instead, making flowers grow out of them. When this happens, he thinks "oh well, que sera sera," shrugs and starts jogging. We'll be seeing Sun Man two other times and his other appearances make even less sense than this.
The first ad is from the US Postal Service, explaining to a young couple the importance of change-of-address forms. Why this had to run during Jabberjaw I have no idea.
Chester Cheetah wasn't invented yet. The best idea they had so far to sell Cheesy Poofs was Cheezan of the Jungle, a mouse in a leopard-skin outfit. When they got tired of paying Edgar Rice Burroughs royalties (they did, right?) they drew up Chester instead.
And now, the feature presentation. The Queen of Atlantis is watching a scale-model demonstration of a new tunneling aqua-tank that can burrow under cities and level them by carving out the foundations from under them. "Must we use such a device?" she frets (and no, I don't get the snake eyes thing either if she's a fish). Her army general insists their enemies are planning a full-scale attack and that Atlantis must defend itself. "All right," she says uneasily, and authorizes the tank.
What the Queen doesn't know is that there's no war at all. The General just wants to start one. Once he conquers all the underwater cities, he'll return with his larger army to conquer Atlantis and rule the entire ocean! Easier plan than tricking a lovestruck mermaid.
Meanwhilst, the Neptunes are playing a concert, as they usually are, and Jabberjaw is picking a fight with a vending machine that oddly has arms made specifically for harrassing Jabberjaw. The machine grabs him and stuffs him into an empty bottle, causing J to whine "I don't get nooo respect, nooooo respect!" It might be helpful to know Rodney Dangerfield had just become famous within the last year by performing a stand-up routine on SNL that included that line. Hanna-Barbera didn't care what they stole back then, no matter how obvious it was that they stole it.
Sometimes they'd even steal from themselves. One of the band members is a near-exact copy of Shaggy, only with a different voice and a different catchphrase....instead of "Zoinks!" it's "Zowie Wowie WOW!"
The curly-haired blonde is named Bubbles, because she's bubbleheaded. She directs the band over to an elevator, pushes the button, but then discovers it was actually an emergency evacuation watercraft that happened to look like an elevator. That was more the ship designer's fault than hers, but she gets the blame anyway.
The craft shoots far away from the ship and careens them crazily around the ocean, and they're not sure how to steer. Things get worse when they're rescued -- by the General's warship. As prisoners of war, they're sent to..."THE PIT."
I'm sure the fish-men would have preferred a more intimidating "THE PIT" than this, but network censors kept whittling down their options. It's easily escapable once Jabberjaw makes a bridge across the gap with his body; then he bites the metal bars blocking the exit open. When he spits the bars out, though, they make a loud "CLANG" that alerts every guard in the ship. The gang hides inside the General's war room, where they stumble upon his plans to conquer all the underwater cities!
You'd think all of this would be exciting, but this is Jabberjaw. I need another ad break quick or I'll go comatose....
The further you go back, the scarier these old Ronalds are. The McDonaldland of the 90's was brightly lit, colorful and gleamingly polished. The same location was dirty and grimy in the 70's. Every costumed character has cheap, googly plastic eyeballs like the kind you would stick on a shoebox project. And half the characters shown here (Cap'n Crook and Mayor McCheese) were eventually phased out.
This ad reveals that Ronald sleeps outside, bed and all.....and I don't really have a remark for that since nothing Ronald does surprises me anymore. His creepy friends all stagger out of their bunks and say they're heading over to McDonalds. "In the morning?? How can that be?" ponders the clown.
Evidently a fast food chain offering breakfast products was a new thing in 1976. They're not talking about Happy Meals today, but about McDonalds hotcakes and Synthetic Almost-Sausage. This is the only food exhibited; if the Egg McMuffin was around, this campaign isn't going to tell you.
Now it's time to learn about an extinct cereal with the longest name I've ever seen: "Grins and Smiles and Giggles and Laughs and Kibbles and Bits and Bits and Bits." Check out the mascot....what is this thing? A talking cash register? An anthropomorphic adding machine? He's got an attitude, too, like he didn't want to be in this ad. How was this cold contraption supposed to compete with Cap'n Crunch and Sugar Bear?
Putting a smiley face on food has been attempted before, and it was certainly attempted after, but it never seems to work. I remember Giggles cookies, which had a similar advertised promise of sending you into hysterics just by eating them. They were okay, but they lasted three years tops. (Goldfish crackers do not count since those smiles were added much later on.)
Back to the cartoon! The General is about to enter the room! The humans hide behind a desk, but the shark is too big for that to work. Prepare for the most baffling plot development you'll see all year. This is Jabberjaw's idea of hiding himself:
Guess what? It works perfectly.
The General doesn't have a stuffed shark for a chair, or a shark-shaped chair, or anything that would make this plausible. He is right there, in the center of the room, surrounded by guards and the General is sitting on his belly. Yet none of them notice him. WHY DON'T THEY SEE HIM???
The General gives his instructions to the fish-men in the room. "Each of you will be given a recorded disc, like this. Take them to your stations and play them for your troops. They contain top-secret information on our strategy for conquest! The Queen is currently upstairs planning a royal banquet. Little does she know this is her last night to rule! HA HA HA HAA!"
The Queen currently believes the gang are the enemy, thanks to the General....but if they had one of those discs, they could play it for the Queen and his plan would be exposed! But how will they nab one without being seen? Uh, I don't think it'll be much of a problem....
Bubbles has the same idea: she simply walks up to the General and grabs one. She gives a short spiel ("Hey, this could make the Top 50 List! Mind if I borrow one?") and he doesn't react until she's already grabbed it and is running away. This is our threat, folks.
They escape the General's army, but have to find a way to present the disc to the Queen without being caught. At first they try posing as cooks and carting Jabber around as the main course, but the head cook orders him "broiled in butter" and he runs off whooping in fear at the sound of it. If that didn't work, they have only one other idea....posing as.......
Okay, now THAT'S funny. Give them some Grins and Smiles and Giggles and Laughs!
While Jabberjaw is distracting the General, Biff places the disc into the Queen's jukebox and his whole plan is loudly exposed! That was the easiest part yet --- wait, why are the guards not doing anything? Why are they surrounding the Queen instead? Oh, that's right....being the General's underlings, they were in on the whole thing. "These guards are loyal to ME!" the General cackles, and has both the Queen and the Neptunes imprisoned.
Has the General truly overthrown
the kingdom? Not quite yet. The Queen laments, "If only my
Aquateers were here! But I sent them on a mission."
She explains that the Aquateers are Atlantis's bravest knights and that even the General's army would run in fear if they were to face them. Shelley comes up with the notion that if they disguised themselves as the Aquateers, maybe it'd be enough to fool the bad guys.
The Queen agrees to the new plan, and opens a secret passageway in the room for the Neptunes to escape through---HOLDITWAITAMINUTE.
If she can escape the whole time....why do they need this plan?
Oh forget it. The army never questions why the Aquateers have a giant blue shark with them now either. But Aquateers or not, the Neptunes handily beat the General's army in a long montage set to a tune from the Jabberjaw LP.
The General makes an attempt to escape in his Tunneling Car, but Jabberjaw leaps inside and dismantles the whole thing. The Queen's throne is saved and she gives her eternal gratitude to the Neptunes, "especially you, Jabberjaw."
"Gaw-lee, respect from royalty!" gushes Jabberjaw. Now you can't say you don't get any, fish.
This one's kind of hard to put into words, but I'll give it a shot anyway: you put little plastic worms onto a pin in the middle of a miniature wrestling ring, flip a lever and the pin vibrates, crashing the worms into each other. Then you and your friends gamble fake money on which worm exits the ring last.
After this came the last spot, a Raisin Bran ad, which I don't think needs any explanation. Up to the late 80's they're pretty much all the same; a cartoon sun sings about "two scoops."
Now this got me really excited: after the show's credits passed, Schoolhouse Rock began and none other than Bill made his appearance. I thought, "if this is 1976, I might have the very first airing of 'I'm Just A Bill'! That rocks even more than Schoolhouse Rocky!" But actually, according to research, the "Bill" short first aired in 1975. The Bicentennial was in '76, but America Rock started one year earlier. Oh well.
Speaking of Rocky....he wasn't there. Instead there was an entirely different opening that just showed children entering a one-room schoolhouse. This same opening shows up on a different recording from 1979, so they used it for at least four years.
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