I spent my Saturday mornings as a kid in the 1970's growing up on classic Filmation television and the New Adventures of Flash Gordon is, without a doubt, one of the greatest animated series of all time. This show revolutionized cartoon animation the way that Star Wars revolutionized special effects, which seems somewhat ironic because Flash Gordon was the primary influence for Star Wars and the animated Flash Gordon cartoon would debut shortly after it to ride the wave of Star Wars' phenomenal success. The animated series would also influence much of the production design of Mike Hodges' live-action 1980 film starring Sam Jones as Flash and Max Von Sydow as Ming the Merciless. Much of the realism of the animation is attributed to its unique "rotoscoping" technique in which live actors are filmed and then each frame is traced and replaced with animation cells. The result is realistic figure movements that make the animation come to life. I always loved the animation because of this as well as the incredible spaceships whose fluid three dimensional movements and aerodynamic designs were as visually exciting to watch as any of those in Star Wars.
The first 16 episodes of the first season were serialized the same way as the old 1930's Alex Raymond comic strips. The second season suffered when NBC decided to change the format of the show by cutting them down to 12 minute chapters (2 per episode) and the addition of the Godzooky-like flying dragon Gremlin was thrown in to "juvenilize" the show for the kiddies. The result is a precursor to several 80's cartoons that followed such as Filmation's own Blackstar in 1981 featuring the heroic John Blackstar and the dwarven Trobbits and in 1983 with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe with sidekick Orko the Magician. He-Man was developed primarily as a line of toys by Mattel the company who also produced a series of action figures and toys for Filmations' Flash Gordon cartoon so the partnership between the two seemed only natural. In fact, several of the vocal performers from He-Man and She-Ra were featured in Flash Gordon first including Alan Oppenheimer who voiced Ming the Merciless and Doctor Hans Zarkov was also the voice of Skeletor, Man-At-Arms and Cringer on Masters of the Universe. Melendy Britt who was the voice of Princess Aura was also the voice of She-Ra, the Princess of Power and Diane Pershing who was the voice of Dale Arden was also the voice of Poison Ivy on Batman: the Animated Series and the voice of Isis on Filmation's Tarzan and the Super 7 together with Robert Ridgley who was Flash and Prince Barin as the voice of Tarzan. Hopefully the release of this classic series will renew interest and demand in Flash Gordon and generate a new demand for the old Mattel action figures and memorabillia.
I am very excited that this series is finally being released in the U.S. even though I have already purchased the European PAL set a few years ago. The "deluxe" 4-disc North America release includes extensive bonus features not found on the 3-disc Region 2 release such as the 20 minute documentary "Blasting Off With Flash Gordon!" featuring new interviews with producers Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer and interactive storyboard-to-clip comparison, plus commentary with the producers and writers on "Planet of Peril," "Sir Gremlin," and "Gremlin's Finest Hour," gallery art, DVD-Rom scripts, Easter Eggs, 2 trading cards, and a bonus episode "Escape From Mongo" from the 1986 Defenders of the Earth cartoon.
Here is a complete listing of all 32 episodes:
Chapter One: A Planet In Peril
Chapter Two: The Monsters Of Mongo
Chapter Three: Vultan, King Of The Hawkmen
Chapter Four: To Save Earth
Chapter Five: The Beast Men's Prey
Chapter Six: Into The Water
Chapter Seven: Adventure In Arboria
Chapter Eight: The Frozen World
Chapter Nine: Monster Of Glacier
Chapter Ten: Blue Magic
Chapter Eleven: King Flash!
Chapter Twelve: Ming's Tournament Of Death
Chapter Thirteen: Castaways In Tropica
Chapter Fourteen: The Desert Hawk
Chapter Fifteen: Revolt Of The Power Men
Chapter Sixteen: Ming's Last Battle
Beware Of Gifts
Gremlin The Dragon
The Freedom Balloon
Gremlin's Finest Hour
The Survival Game
The Memory Bank Of Ming
Sacrifice Of The Volcano Men
UPDATE: Although this is being marketed as "The Complete Series" it unfortunately does not contain the 1982 feature length animated movie "Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All." From what I have heard and read, this was a truly epic film that begins in Warsaw, Poland which is being annihilated by Hitler's bombers. Flash's dying friend leaves him with a message for Dr. Hans Zarkov: "Mongo". Flash takes a plane where he meets Dale Arden. The plane is caught up a violent thunderstorm, which turns into a devastating meteor shower, crushing one of the plane's engines. Flash and Dale bail out, but a meteor brushes their chute, sending the duo plummeting to the earth. A mysterious purple beam plucks them out of the stormy night and gently settles them onto the ground. They have to race for shelter and find Zarkov in his laboratory who rushes them into his rocketship, informing them that the meteors are no accident; it is in fact a strategic attack. As they spirit away in his rocketship, they are swept towards Mongo and adventure. Much of the story that begins in the first few epsiodes of the series has been dramatically altered so this is more of an alternate storyline which seems to more closely resemble the plot from the 1980 live-action film. Apparently BCI does not own the rights to "Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All" so that is why it is not included. Hopefully, someone will release it seperately soon but it sure would have been nice to have included it in this "Complete" set.