Produced by: Sunbow
Distributed by: Shout! Factory and Hasbro
This takes me back, just watching the opening credits shot me back to the age of sideways ponytails, Squeezeit juice drinks and the best animation TV had to offer. Sunbow produced some of the masterworks of 1980s and early 1990s cartoon television, most notably G.I. Joe, Jem, Transformers and the title up for review today, Conan the Adventurer.
I always love when any given franchise gears up for a major movie release, like Green Lantern. When was that ever the apple of DC’s eye? It took Ryan Reynolds slipping into a green screen suit to get the second stringer any action. Now with a reboot of Conan coming out, Shout! Factory and Hasbro have tossed together some DVDs for the not-long-at-all running, mostly forgotten, Conan the Adventurer cartoon as a way of tossing their hats into the ring. All abroad the barbarian money train. You know honestly I couldn’t even remember this cartoon until I saw the opening credits, which are pretty catchy by the way, and then I got flashes of my childhood. It was a pretty surreal moment.
Hither comes Conan, the just and kind. Valiant, friend to animals, a do-good type with morals and standards, gigantic muscles and equally big hair, making sure everything is right as rain again. He is armed with a sword that only seems to send the serpent men to some distant dimension, and with his merry band of adventurers, they hunt Wrath-Amon, an evil sorcerer who turned Conan’s family into stone. It’s a far cry from the beloved Arnold version of the muscled barbarian, and even further from Robert E. Howard’s brutish hero of the tomes, but it’s a kid show and moral standards prohibit showing children images of decapitation and rape.
Let just get this out of the way, the cartoon is silly and lives in the shadow of other, more memorable toons like He-man and G.I. Joe. There’s nothing that makes it standout in an animated crowd other than it’s Conan. Really this could have been called The Barbarian Named Pete Saves the Day and it would have had the same impact on the pop-culture world – absolute nil.
This show not completely without its merits. It happens to be kind of entertaining, of course not as entertaining as it was when I was seven since, you know, I’ve learned about story structure since then, but still good for a rainy day pick me up.
In a lot of ways watching this again made me realize that the cartoons us 20-something’s watched were generally the same thing just chewed up and spat out in a different way over and over again. There are so many common factors. It seemed like if you were a villain in a cartoon of the ’80s you were rocking the snake motif. And if you were a hero, then you had a magic sword that you swung around like some kind of phallic extension, because Crom knows those loin clothes couldn’t be hiding much considering how short they are.
Oh, and heroes were generally plagued by an annoying, magical sidekick. A lot of people have bought into the rumor that He-Man was created from when the Conan action figures had to be repainted because parents got all pissy over toys being sold for a movie that was full of sex and violence – strange how times change. My Gail for Sin City action figure is the fucking bomb and no parent made a peep over those. But anyways, I think the real copycat would be the Conan cartoon posing off of He-Man. It just fits into that general mold of buff man hero and friends.
You know what doesn’t fit the mold? This DVD set. It really comes off a bit slapdash, not boasting anything other than thirteen episodes on two disks, no special features to be had here. I just bought He-Man season two and it’s got tons of extra stuff I’ll probably never watch but am thrilled to have like episode scripts, character profiles, and documentaries. It was a little disappointing to not even get a commentary attached to the Conan the Adventurer DVD but I guess we can’t expect much since it definitely doesn’t seem the type of thing with a lot of depth.
Personally I would save my pennies for a ticket to the new Conan movie coming out, unless you’re really into Conan and have to own this DVD. To reiterate, it’s Conan without the Conan, a mild fantasy cartoon that pales in comparison to its fellow Sunbow masterpieces but can still be good to fill some time.
Oh, and that awesome theme song? Just check this out: