THE STORY OF SUPERMAN (Burbank Video, 1989)

ACTION HEROES OF MOVIES & T.V. (1989, Goodtimes)

     For the rest of the week, I’m going to post covers for documentaries about serial and comic book heroes, starting with this collection of clips, trailers, and other vintage bits of public domain film.
    I’m busy with theater this week, so I won’t have much to say about these tapes other than that they’re a lot of fun.

UPDATED ENTRY: 50-Cartoon Tapes (various, 1990-1999)

    Despite being separate companies in the late 1980’s and early ‘90’s, the contents and artwork for 50-cartoon tapes by both Starmaker and Burbank Video were absorbed by Anchor Bay in the mid-‘90’s. This led to the combining of artwork from earlier VHS covers, partly to remove the Warner Brothers ‘toons, which were no longer considered public domain (aside from one-off Looney Tunes characters, plus an unnamed early-style Tweety).
     Using newly-received tapes, here is an updated look at the basic evolution of these labels’ 50-cartoon cover drawings from across an entire decade:

1) 50 Cartoons - Starmaker, 1990 (Vol. 2 released in 1993)
2) 50 Cartoons - Burbank Video, 1991 (Vol. 2 also released in 1991)
3) 100 Cartoons - Starmaker, 1993
4) 50 Cartoons - Starmaker / Anchor Bay, 1996
5) 50 Cartoons - Starmaker / Anchor Bay, 1997 (Vol. 2-3 also 1997)
6) 100 Cartoons - Unicorn, 1999*

     (* = Although the Unicorn set’s contents and art are lifted from Anchor Bay, I’ve no idea if there’s any legal connection between the two companies. More of that monstrosity in future entries.)

LEGENDS OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL (Alpha Video Distributors, 1992)
ROCK ‘N’ SOUL HEAVEN (Goodtimes Home Video, 1989)

     Some leftovers from Beatles week back in March. “Legends” is a concise half-and-half documentary on the Beatles and Elvis Presley, while “Heaven” is a straightforward collection of vintage promotional performances by gone-too-soon artists. While the Alpha release sticks to public domain footage and avoids music, the Goodtimes one apparently got the necessary clearances to use actual songs (live and mimed TV appearances). Both tapes feature the Beatles and Elvis.
     (I bought these brand new back in the 1990’s. The “Legends” one was sold in Ames Department Store and “Legends” was sold at K-Mart.)

     We wrap up Star Classics Week with another sampling of their many public domain based cartoon tapes from 1987-1988. I don’t own these titles, but expect more scans of the Star Classics titles that are from my personal collection in later months. (Pics: Amazon, Ebay.)


     Not even Star Classics was above devoting four-cartoon releases to characters with only one cartoon in the public domain. (Good on them, however, for using images that were accurate to the cartoons on these tapes, rather than relying on the more popular later designs of each character.) Luckily, Porky Pig arrives to pick up the slack on both tapes (although in five years, his material would apparently be yanked from its then-assumed public domain status).
     These two old tapes were thrift store finds (which would explain why my Woody box has a Kid Flicks cassette inside, rather than Star Classics’!), and have rips and markings that somewhat mar my scans of the entire box. So, to balance things out, I grabbed some Ebay photos to show you what each front cover looks like in better shape.
    There’s not much that I can say about the Woody and Mighty shorts here that “Waddle’s VCR" on YouTube hasn’t said already, so check those reviews out if you haven’t yet.

LITTLE LULU (Star Classics, 1987)
LITTLE AUDREY (Star Classics, 1988)

     These feature characters from Paramount’s Famous Studios era of cartoons are nowadays “famous” for their 1940’s cartoons being in the public domain. Though I appreciate the variety of cartoons on these tapes, I keep wishing the label would feature more than just one cartoon from the character on the box. (Both Audrey and Lulu have more than enough cartoons to fill an entire half hour.)
     Note how the “color enhanced figure” disclaimer alternates between appearing on the front and back covers on these eighties releases, depending on how much space is on the front. Also, the fonts used for the title characters on these boxes do not adhere to a singular style from tape to tape. Thankfully, the placement of the logo and VHS text on the side of every box (plus the use of solid colors) gives each release some consistency, allowing the tapes to look good next to each other on a shelf.

HERMAN THE MOUSE (Star Classics, 1987 and 1990)

     I bought both of these tapes brand new from a Pharmhouse store in the early 1990’s. Aside from the obvious differences in box art quality, and despite the back covers listing the same contents, these two cassette contained completely different cartoons from each other.
     The first tape has the correct contents, except that Warner Bros’ “Smile Darn Ya Smile” (listed as “Smile Danny Smile”!) has been replaced by Paramount’s “Popeye for President”. The second tape, however, is actually their Mickey Mouse tape from 1987.
     Despite being brand new, neither of these had a label on the cassette. As with any such purchases I’d made at the time, I inserted typed-up index cards into the boxes, so that I’d know what the heck I was watching! (I put the index cards on over them just for the above scans.)

POPEYE: “gummi bear” version (update to this entry)

HOLY COW! How did I forget about these?!? Not to be outdone by other companies and their “free microwave popcorn” tapes, Star Classics offered free gummi bear candies. I’ve no idea what company made the bears or how they tasted, but I feel truly fortunate to be reminded that these existed. (I only have a vague recollection of seeing this tape at my mall.)

Eternal thanks to fellow public domain cartoon VHS enthusiast Geno Cuddy for scanning and sharing this one. You can find him on Tumblr, YouTube, and Twitter!

BUGS BUNNY (#3208, Star Classics, 1987 and 1990)

     Another example of Star Classics repackaging earlier releases with new box art, in what turned out to be a last-ditch effort to sell more of their cartoon tapes. From a tape quality standpoint, the earlier releases always had the edge. I’d been known to return a 1990 tape by these guys to the store on more than one occasion, due to some unruly tracking problems (with the picture looking bent at the top or bottom, despite making manual adjustments on my VCR). Sadly, I can’t compare the quality of these two tapes, since my 1990 copy was a thrift store purchase that had the wrong cassette (a Warner Bros. release of “Bugs Bunny’s Thanksgiving Dinner”) in the box! (The generic gold-label tape above is what the real cassette would have looked like.)