Hong Kong Phooey (voiced by Scatman Crothers) was a short lived half a season Hanna Barbera produced ABC Saturday morning cartoon. This did not stop it from being a popular rerun. Made in 1974, this children's animated show is the most low budget looking Hanna Barbera series. The 16 episodes in Honk Kong Phooey The Complete series feature 2 10-minute cartoons each, hence the 31 episode tag on the box (one episode having only one cartoon in it)
Hanna-Barbera, home of venerated cartoons such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons, was also the home of the quick draw flat animation (where only the head or the legs would move while the body basically stayed static and the background was looped after two or three feet) that allowed it to make the maximum of cartoon with the least possible number of animators with the lowest possible budget. This often worked because Joseph Hanna and William Barbera came up with some very strong characters and cartoon ideas such as Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, or Johnny Quest that could make you forget the industrial style animation. This kind of works with Hong Kong Phooey.
Penrod Pooch is a mild-mannered janitor at a minimally staffed (Sergeant Flint and cop receptionist Rosemary) police station. When Rosemary answers a call "You don't say. You don't say!" Penrod Pooch goes to his secret hideout behind the soft drink machine, dives into a filing cabinet, puts on his red kung fu robe, needs help from his cat Spot (voiced by Don Messick) to get out of the cabinet, and then goes and fights crime.
Hong Kong Phooey's kung fun skills are certainly worthy of the yellow belt he wears. His ability to capture criminals is due more to pure luck and Spot's assistance than any skill with the martial arts because he has none. The cool thing about this cartoon is without a doubt the Phooey mobile that changes shape when Hong Kong bangs a gong. Also, in a rare case of cartoon social consciousness, Phooey is always shown putting on his seatbelt when he gets in his car.
Hong Kong Phooey is an interesting character and a great cartoon idea that suffers from the most low budget animation I have seen in a while. Michael Maltese was able to use a few brush strokes to render the surreal Roadrunner cartoon background and the animators behind Phooey used the same idea without the same success. Still, you have to admit this is a fun little cartoon with a low violence threshold (unless you count Phooey bumping into things).
There is no doubt this cartoon was quickly made to ride the wave of one hit wonder Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting, the Bruce Lee wave, and David Carradine Kung Fu series. It lasted about as long though had a long life in reruns. This is a very family friendly cartoon, especially for the very young ones.
Extra features include commentary by some of the people associated with this series on three cartoons, a retrospective documentary titled The Phoo-Nomenom, and a story board to cartoon feature.
Other Warner Brothers Cartoon DVD collections:
Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 1 review
Magilla Gorilla The Complete Series (includes Ricochet Rabbit and Punkin Puss) review
The Flintstones The Complete First Season review
The Huckleberry Hound Show Volume 1 (includes Yogi Bear and Pixie and Dixie cartoons) review
The Yogi Bear Show The Complete Series (includes Snagglepuss and the annoying Yakky Doodle) review
The Richie Rich Scooby Doo Show review
Tex Avery's Droopy The Complete Series review
Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection 3 review
Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 1 review
Saturday Morning Cartoon Collection 70s review
The Jetsons Season 2 Volume 1 review