Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Jana of the Jungle vs. The Animal Snatchers (1978)

A little backstory is needed before we get into our next video.

In 1977, Hanna-Barbera acquired a license to bring Rima, the Jungle Girl, who was created by author H. Rider Haggard in his novel, Green Mansions, and had already been licensed to DC Comics, to television, with Rima appearing in two short stories on the All-New Super Friends Hour. A year later, H-B came up with their own jungle heroine, with the help of an old friend.

Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey returned to H-B and created Jana of the Jungle as a component of the Godzilla Power Hour, on which Wildey was serving as producer. Oh, H-B could've worked something with DC and/or the Haggard estate to give Rima her own series, and maybe they did, but neither ABC nor NBC or CBS were interested, we don't know. Wildey gave the studio a clean slate with Jana, who was raised in the jungle after her father was lost in an accident.

Jana (BJ Ward) is mentored by the shaman, Montaro (Ted Cassidy, also the voice of Godzilla), and has two pet sidekicks, Tiko, a ferret (I think), and Ghost, a white jaguar. And, then, for the sake of at least teasing a romance, there is Dr. Ben Cooper (Michael Bell), a vet working out of a jungle preserve (think Daktari). Stories ran along the same line as Tarzan over on CBS, and that was really the reason Jana came along in the first place. Unlike Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary hero, however, Jana lasted just 1 season. You'd think that wouldn't happen, since Jana was eye candy for the boys, but it was airing opposite Scooby-Doo over on ABC, another case of H-B being programmed against itself.

Could Jana make a comeback? Under the right conditions.

Take for example Sheena, who was revived for a brief live-action run a few years ago, with Gena Lee Nolin (ex-Baywatch) in the title role. In this version, Sheena was rebooted as a shapeshifter who needed eye contact with a specific animal to effect her transformations. That series lasted two seasons, and will be discussed here another time. Would WB be interested in giving Jana those same powers in order to bring her back?

While you contemplate that, let's go back to 1978 and "The Animal Snatchers".

Edit: 12/20/17: The video has been deleted.

 I'd love to see this out on DVD, and not manufactured-on-demand (MOD), either, mind you.

Rating: B.


Geed said...

Oh dear, the Godzilla Power Hour. Godzookey is the Scrappy Doo for all true Godzilla fans. Not being a "true" Godzilla fan (as in not die hard), I will, on occasion, torture my two die hard Godzilla fans with a "and Godzooooooookeeeeeeeeey!".

Also, since you mentioned Rima from Super Friends, obviously, her design for tv was from the legendary Alex Toth who just had a third tribute book called Genius Animated (after the previous Genius, Isolated & Genius Illustrated) and much like the Toth By Design book, has hundreds of sketchs & storyboards & ideas printed. Did you know Farrah Fawcett had a pitch for a cartoon with her as a circus performer named Farrah Fantastic? Crazy!

hobbyfan said...

Farrah as a cartoon, before she did Johnny Bravo? Say what?

Re.: Rima. Don't ya think maybe H-B could've gotten a Rima solo series green-lighted? It took about three years before she returned to SF, as memory serves, and then, gone.

Now, what about the question I posed? Jana, rebooted as a shape-shifting jungle goddess (or close to it)? Whaddya think?

magicdog said...

I used to love Jana! The female Tarzan angle (Rima or not) and the right touch of "girl power" made me enjoy this as a kid. Whenever I had a Frisbee, I'd wield it like Jana threw her necklace!

I used to wonder if she'd ever find her father. I was disappointed we never got an answer to that - even though there was a tease episode in which an older man pretended to be her father so Jana would rescue him from some angry natives! We never learned why she and her dad were in the Amazon to begin with. Was he a scientist? An explorer? A missionary? Inquiring minds and all that!

Before Appa and Momo, there was Tikko and Ghost!

I had never heard of Farrah angling to get her own animated show - but then again, it was the popular thing to do at the time. She probably would have been a cross between Devlin (circus performer) and Clue CLub (solving mysteries on the road).

I'd have watched a Rima series, it's all about the adventure right?

I agree with a reboot. Toho would probably have to be consulted due to the Godzilla connection, but having her as a shape shifter and having a few other mystical powers (using Montaro's staff) could work. Even without it, I'd still watch if it were well written. I wonder if BJ Ward would voice her again if it were greenlit?

This is the first full ep I've seen in ages! The most I could find (aside from the intro) was a clip of Montaro being rescued from quicksand by Ghost.

hobbyfan said...

There are a few more eps on YouTube, thanks to Rob Ray and others, so there's more coming.

WB doesn't need to consult Toho in re.: Jana. She's Doug Wildey's baby for H-B.

As for her missing pop, I'd guess they were on vacation in the Amazon. A movie would tie this up real quick.

As for voices, BJ Ward is still active, so maybe, yeah, she could revisit Jana, more than 35 years later. If they need a younger actress, I'd recommend Danica McKellar (ex-Young Justice, Wonder Years).

BTW, I should've noted that Jana's necklace may have been the inspiration for Xena's chakram (same ovular necklace used as a boomerang type weapon) more than 15 years later. Y'think maybe the Xena crew were fans?