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AMAZING CHAN & THE CHAN CLAN (1972)
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Chinese-American supersleuth Charlie Chan made his cartoon transition with his customary grace, only this time he brought along the clan. Maintaining Hanna-Barbera's winning formula (kids, mysteries, canine, van), the hit kid show also introduced some innovations (the van transforms, a double-sized team, HOWdunnits not whodunits). Most significant among these is the casting of the amazing Keye Luke (Kato, Master Po) as the voice of Charlie Chan. Not only was this the first time that an Asian-American would play Charlie Chan, it marked an apropos "graduation" for Mr. Luke, the original "Number One Son" Lee Chan of the classic Warner Oland Chan mysteries. Among those joining Mr. Luke on voice duties are Jodie Foster (Anne Chan), Lennie Weinrib (Stanley Chan) and Don Messick (Chu-Chu) in this complete 16-episode, two-disc collection. The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan - "e pluribus unum" and how!
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"The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan" is a great example of those hijinks-laden `70s cartoons. A total mish-mash of Charlie Chan, Hong Kong Phooey, and Scooby-Doo, the stories juxtapose pure cartoon logic--a car that turns into a hot dog stand at the touch of a button--with the solid sureness of the capable Charlie Chan. Sixteen episodes were produced in total, all of which are included on this Complete Series set.
The series was groundbreaking when it was released. An all-Asian leading cast is rare even today, some 40 years later. more Keye Luke--who often played Number 1 Son in the Charlie Chan mysteries-- voices Mr. Chan, making him the first actual Chinese person to play the famous character. Luke fought against the stereotypical broken English of the Chan series and gave Mr. Chan a full, educated vocabulary. The Chan Clan was also originally dubbed with an all-Asian cast, but after the first test-showing, however, producers decided that the accents from the Asian voice actors were too thick. The shows were re-dubbed with a mostly Caucasian cast with the exception of Luke. Oscar-winning actress Jodi Foster voices the feminist tomboy Anne Chan.
Voice aside, the series remains as an example of a show with positive Chinese characters, one where their "Chineseness" isn't the focus of the show. The writers stayed away from racial stereotypes or from playing up the ethnicity of the cast.
Repetitive set plots were industry standards back then, and all sixteen episodes have some variation on a theme. Someone comes to Charlie Chan (or Mr. Chan, as he is called in the cartoon) with some dilemma, maybe a stolen set of jewels or some precious artifact they need protected. The Chan Clan spots some suspicious character on the scene, then go into action investigating. They always cause more trouble than help, and at the last minute Mr. Chan steps in to unmask the true culprit--often quite literally with the Scooby Doo-style rubber mask. They go all over the world hunting after random treasures; a religious icon in Europe. A white elephant stolen from a Maharaja. Even Scotland's Stone of Scone, which was my favorite episode.
Even with the set-plot, what makes the series fun is the separate personalities of all the kids, from straight-arrow Henry Chan to goofy Stanley Chan to tomboy Anne Chan to the kid Scooter Chan. The kids usually have a few targets they are after, and get in each other's way trying to foil the plot. The other fun part is the pure surrealism found in cartoons of this era. They follow "cartoon logic." The kids disguise themselves as potted plants, until criminals are followed by an entire moving garden without noticing a thing. Their Chan Mobile transforms at the touch of a button into a hot dog cart or anything else required at the moment.
Of course, this was the seventies, so a band was prerequisite. The Chan Clan band played a couple of songs that were rotated every episode or so. If they songs sound familiar, it's because they were written by Don Kirshner who also wrote the songs for The Archies and The Monkeys. The Archies' lead singer Ron Dante does vocals for Clan Chan hits like "Who Dunnit?" and "Number One Son." The songs obviously serve a dual purpose. The animation segments for the songs repeat the same animation, saving the show a few bucks in being able to repeat frames.
This DVD is from the Warner Archives series, which means it is a simple disk that has nothing more than the sixteen episodes, un-restored. The Warner Archives series basically goes through the vaults and puts limited-interest items out on DVD without any additional support or fanfare, just to make them available. It's a pretty cool deal actually, and I would rather have low quality "Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan" than no Chan at all. Still, you can expect screen artifacts and pale colors.
Obviously, there are no bonus features. I would have loved it if they had included episodes with the original all-Asian cast, but those have been presumably lost to time.
The story lines are good, perhaps a little simple for today's viewing audiences. There is no violence, no compromising situations, no inappropriate language. The animation is theater quality, not the crudely drawn images that are so popular today. Thanks to the production crew for making this type of entertainment available, then, and now.
Would I recommend this for purchase by others. YES! It's good entertainment and safe for children, of all ages, to watch!
The basic premise of each episode: venerable Honolulu detective Charlie Chan is called in to investigate some kind of wrongdoing (never murder - this WAS a kid's show) ... and though he tells his ten children to behave and stay out of the case, all of them somehow become involved (often with not-so-great results) before the culprit is unmasked. Everything about the show was simplistic, from the animation to stories to character development - yet it was just such FUN (and funny), watching Chan solve each mystery, sometimes because of (but more often in spite of) his highly inquisitive children.
I hesitated to purchase this DVD at first, knowing that each one was manufactured directly on DVD for each purchase, but several years back I fell in love with the show all over again - thank you, Boomerang! - and though I haven't seen the series since losing the Boomerang station, this seemed my one shot to own the entire series (sadly, only 16 episodes). I'd always loved Keye Luke voicing Chan, thought the various mix of personalities of the kids (one of them - the tomboy - voiced by Jodie Foster when she was still a "kid actor") a lot of fun - so just had to get it.
I'm glad I did. The sound is great, picture quality could have been cleaned up perfectly but on these DVDs it was actually a LOT better than I expected; brighter and sharper than I remember from Boomerang reruns, and watching the episodes took my back forty years to when I sat entranced in front of the TV on Saturday morning.
I still love this show, and though the DVDs might not be for many beyond those who enjoyed this series in its original airing, this is one DVD set I won't even be loaning out, if asked; it's just too strong a throwback to simpler, happy times ... and each viewing is like hanging out with wonderful old friends again.
(Deducting one star ONLY because the picture quality is great - but COULD have been cleaned up a bit more.)
From the 1930's to the 1950's there were over 50 B films made about the detective Charlie Chan, based on the books of Earl Biggers. In those films while Chan solved the crime he was accompanied by at least one of his grown children, almost always a son, referred to as #1 son, or #2 or so one who provide plot exposition and comic relief. In the 70's cartoon we have the detective and 10 children, two in early 20's, 4 teens and 4 younger who, when `Pop' gets on a case, have to get involved too.
With so many moving parts in a 22 minute adventure there isn't much room for subtlety and as the 3 groups of kids each settle on one suspect, the guilty party is invariably the one person the kids aren't chasing. But you don't watch this for the mystery. You watch it for the humor of the kids getting into and out of trouble while Charlie solves the crime at the end.
The level of animation is somewhat questionable. Not as good as Scooby Doo had been but the general deterioration you saw in the 70's as the shops had to churn out more stuff. Beyond the lack of the non-human side kick This show stood out for having a `cast' made up of all Asians, a rarity for the time.
In the end is this side splittingly funny or full of great mysteries? No. but it is a wonderful look back to a much simpler time and for people who were kids back then, a great reminder of those days.
1. The Crown Jewel Caper
2. To Catch A Pitcher
3. Will The Real Charlie Chan Please Stand Up?
4. The Phantom Sea Thief
5. Eye of the Idol
6. Fat Lady Caper
7. Captain Kidd’s Doubloons
8. The Bronze Idol
1. Double Trouble
2. The Great Illusion Caper
3. The Mummy’s Tomb
4. The Mardi Gras Caper
5. The Gypsy Caper
6. The Greek Caper
7. White Elephant
8. Scotland Yard