Saturday, February 19, 2011
DVD Review: Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch: The Complete Series
Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch was one of the last great Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Sadly it only ran for one season, from 1974 to 1975. The new Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch: The Complete Series is a three-DVD set containing all 13 episodes, and they are as great as ever.
Each episode is comprised of three shorts, each running six minutes - for a grand total of 39 individual stories. That is a healthy output, no matter how you look at it. Our heroes were Wheelie, a red Volkswagon Beetle - and his girlfriend Rota Ree, a yellow sports car. Their antagonists were the Chopper Bunch, four bumbling motorcycles. The gang was led by Chopper, and also included Revs, Hi-Riser, and Scrambles. The Chopper Bunch were occasionally put in their places by Captain Tough (a police car), and Fishtail (a police motorcycle).
The plotlines revolved around the Chopper Bunch provoking Wheelie through various schemes. Much of this had to do with trying to steal Rota away from Wheelie, as if that would ever happen. The Bunch never questioned Chopper’s plans, even though they inevitably went horribly wrong.
The very first short was titled “Get A Doctor,” and sets the stage for what was to follow. Wheelie is up against the Chopper Bunch in a cross country race, from New Car City to Camshaft-Cisco. The grand prize? A date with Rota Ree, which is enough to rev everyone’s motor. After many shenanigans, including trying to mail a flattened Wheelie without a stamp, the Chopper Bunch get busted by a postal truck, and end up sorting mail.
“Razzle Dazzle Paint Job” was another early winner. The Chopper Bunch incur the wrath of Captain Tough, who sends Fishtail out after them. Meanwhile, Wheelie has been given a certificate for a free paint job, which Chopper is trying to steal. Captain Tough and Fishtail are sort of a Laurel And Hardy combination, and get a lot of exposure in this one. The Chopper Bunch get theirs at The Razzle Dazzle Paint Shop, where their antics (as always) backfire.
Things get really fun during “Wheelie Goes Hawaiian.” Everybody has gone to Hawaii for the Outrigger Race. Captain Tough and Fishtail also happen to be there, on vacation. The Chopper Bunch rig up a palm tree catapult trap for Wheelie, which lands him on a rock. When he escapes to rejoin the race on a raft, the Chopper Bunch turn a remote controlled shark on him. He retaliates with a remote of his own - and sends the shark after them. Score another one for Wheelie.
In “Dr. Crankenstein, ” we find famous director Federico Fuellini making a movie starring Wheelie, and the Chopper Bunch are jealous. Even funnier is the Dragnet parody, “Dragsternet.” Captain Tough as Sergeant Friday is a hoot. Then there is “Dragula.” Obviously Rob Zombie was inspired by this one, he wrote a hit song by the same name.
“Johnny Crash” takes on the man in black, with Wheelie auditioning for the Johnny Crash TV show. We find motorcycle Johnny Crash strumming his guitar and singing “I was a fool to pop my gaskets, and make myself a wreckage over you” in front of the camera. Despite the Chopper Bunch’s best efforts, Wheelie gets the gig when he pulls a fiddle out of his trunk and plays up a storm.
The final short of the series is “Wheelie’s Clean Sweep.” It provides a nice ending to the show. In it, Wheelie meets Rota’s father, a street sweeper. Wheelie takes over the job, so the old man can have a day off. The Chopper Bunch decide to have a little fun (don’t they ever learn?) and wind up in the city dump. Wheelie has scored big points with Rota’s dad, and the series winds up with the Bunch taunting Chopper with “We told ya, we told ya, we told ya.”
Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch were competing with The Bugs Bunny Show during the entire run, which is probably the biggest reason the series only lasted one season. Go back and look at these beautifully drawn, and often hilarious stories though. The show was very well done. Absolute fun for the whole family, and a reminder of the Hanna-Barbera team's genius.
Article first published as DVD Review: Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch: The Complete Series on Blogcritics.