Dark Ranters Reviews Presents:
Swat Kats: Radical Squadron with GearsX
Hello, everyone. This is GearsX clockin' back with a new review. I'm reviewing a cartoon show from the early 90s but not just any cartoon, this is an overlooked and underrated gem from a legendary cartoon studio, Hanna-Barbera. I know every reviewer and his mother talked about this studio but I'll talk about them anyway before I speak about the cartoon that I'm about to review. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera got into the animation business back in 1939 with their string of Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts for MGM. Tom and Jerry proved to be quite popular and would cement their creators' foothold in the animation business. When MGM shut down its cartoon studio in 1957, William and Joseph started their own animation company called Hanna-Barbera. Hanna-Barbera had produced classic cartoon shows like Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and The Smurfs. In 1993, Hanna-Barbera would produce its final cartoon as an indie studio and that cartoon is Swat Kats: Radical Squadron. Swat Kats became a ratings smash but as the show was reaching successful heights on par with Ninja Turtles and merchandising was getting off the ground, it was abruptly cancelled after two seasons. I'll get into the show's cancellation later on.
Swat Kats was created by Christian and Yvon Tremblay. The show is about two ex-military cops turned scrapyard mechanics named Chance "T-Bone" Furlong and Jake "Razor" Clawson. Their job is to defend Megakat City from the forces of evil. Chance is the brawn of the duo – brash, stubborn and he is a hotshot pilot of the custom job fighter jet called the TurboKat. Chance is known to be extreme when it comes to taking risks in fighting crime either from inside the TurboKat jet or on the ground. Despite his tough-guy persona, Chance does have a soft spot for his friends Jake and Callie Briggs and he loves to watch "Scaredy-Cat" cartoons. At one point, he was afraid of bugs and couldn't swim. Jake is the brains of the duo, responsible for designing the weapons and vehicles and he monitors the functioning status of the TurboKat. He is an expert in hand-to-hand combat. Unlike Chance, Jake is more reserved and often uses strategy when it comes to fighting crime. At one time, Jake lost his confidence when an elderly couple was injured during a fight against Dark Kat but he quickly recovers when he realized it was a set-up by the villain. Now let's talk about the supporting cast.
Calico "Callie" Briggs is a beautiful deputy mayor who serves as a contact for the Swat Kats and does most of the work for her boss, Mayor Manx. More often times than not, she would get herself into trouble and get captured by the bad guys. Callie would defend the Swat Kats from accusations by Commander Feral whenever there was collateral damage. It was said she has a huge crush on Razor despite the fact T-Bone is crushing on her.
Commander Ulysses Feral is a no-nonsense, by the book leader of MegaKat City's police force, the Enforcers. He had quite a history with the Swat Kats long before they were on opposite sides of the law. Chance and Jake once worked for him until one day during a pursuit of Dark Kat, Feral kicked them off the force due to disobeying orders and had them work in the scrapyard to pay off the damage done to the Enforcer headquarters. Feral views the Swat Kats as rogue anti-heroes but he does have a certain respect for them since they do save the city.
Mayor Manx is a doofus of a politician in charge of MegaKat City for ten terms. He cares more about his golf game than serving the citizens of MegaKat City. Whenever there's trouble, Manx would run away and hide like a coward, but the one time he did show some guts is when he took out his ancestor's foe, the Red Lynx, due to no one re-electing him as mayor. Unlike Mayor Manx, his ancestor, the Blue Manx, is a brave pilot.
Lt. Felina Feral is the niece of Commander Feral and unlike Callie, Felina is no damsel in distress. She is very rebellious and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. Felina is the only Enforcer who is willing to team up with the Swat Kats and unlike her uncle, she views them as heroes. Felina is also an expert pilot. While Feral cares about his niece, he would never give her any special treatment.
For the villains, I'm only gonna talk about the ones who were better-known on the show.
Dark Kat is the big bad of the series. He is a brute but is very smart. Dark Kat plans to destroy Megakat City and build a city of his own where evil reigns supreme. He is the reason Chance and Jake had become the Swat Kats, and his minions are called Creeplings, who look like distant cousins of Firebrand from Gargoyle's Quest. They have limited intelligence and can perform the simplest of tasks. Unlike most of the villains, Dark Kat has no backstory at all.
Dr. Viper is a cat/snake hybrid hellbent on turning MegaKat City into his own personal swamp. He was once a brilliant but corrupt scientist named Elrod Purvis and worked at Megakat Biochemical Labs. Purvis worked with Dr. N. Zyme on a regenerative formula but he tried to steal it for himself. He was covered in the stuff when he got into a fatal accident. Something within the formula brought him back from the dead and turned Purvis into the vile monster that is Dr. Viper. Dr. Viper is considered to be the deadliest foe the Swat Kats ever faced since he and his genetically engineered monsters killed a lot of innocent people.
The Pastmaster is an undead wizard from medieval times who has the ability to open up time portals and summon extinct creatures. Pastmaster's weapons consist of a magical pocket watch and a spell book. He has a major disdain toward anything modern and wants to bring back the Dark Ages. He once lusted on Callie due to the fact she resembles her ancestor, Queen Callista.
Mac and Molly Mange, a.k.a. the Metallikats, are former mobsters turned killer robots. They were sent to Alkatraz Prison but escaped by rowboat. The Manges didn't enjoy their freedom for long when they were killed in a collision with a large ship. After their corpses washed ashore, Prof. Hackle brought them back to life as robots. They didn't say thank you to the Professor and resumed their life of crime. The Metallikats are formidable enemies to the Swat Kats because of their firepower but they should get some couples' therapy since all they do is argue with each other. There's a running gag involving Mac being a very terrible driver, too.
Hard Drive is a data thief who can travel through electronics and steal top-secret government files thanks to his Surge Coat. Hard Drive has given the Swat Kats and the Enforcers some trouble on a few occasions but without his Surge Coat, he is just an ordinary street thief and a total wimp to boot.
With the characters out of the way, let's discuss about the cartoon itself and the DVD. Swat Kats has some really solid writing from start to finish. It keeps your eyes glued to the action at all times and the dialogue is pretty damn good. The writing is complemented with fantastic voice-acting from the likes of Charlie Adler, Barry Gordon, Tress MacNeille, Jim Cummings, Frank Welker and even celebrity guest stars like Robert Patrick from X-Files and Terminator 2 and Nick Chinlund from Chronicles of Riddick.
The animation looks beautiful, even by 90s standards, but there are some flaws with the show, at least with the DVD release. The picture quality shows a little bit of grain but to be fair, the beta tapes of Swat Kats were in good enough quality to be watchable while the show was transferred to DVD. The least thing Warner Bros. could have done was clean up the picture a little bit. Swat Kats was transferred to DVD-R, which comes off as a bit cheap but I won't harp on that too much. The DVD menus are bare bones which means no special features but that's ok for the most part. Would've been nice to put in the option of subtitles though.
I'm sure all of you were wondering why Swat Kats got a premature cancellation despite being a huge hit on syndicated TV. Some people believe Ted Turner played a hand in the show getting the axe. They claim Turner hated the fact Swat Kats was doing better than his own show, Captain Planet, in terms of popularity and ratings and he firmly believed the parents' claims about a cartoon show starring anthropomorphic cats being too violent for kids. So he had Time Warner to buy out Hanna-Barbera and its properties just to cancel Swat Kats and to spite the fans. Whatever the case may be, Swat Kats didn't deserve the early death that it got. Hanna-Barbera did produce brand-new animated shows for the fledgling Cartoon Network at that time and once again to be fair, those cartoon shows were instant classics. Hanna-Barbera was eventually shut down as an animation studio and became a name-only brand for Warner Bros.
In the years since its cancellation, Swat Kats gained a huge fanbase. Websites dedicated to the show were made and it did air on some occasions on Cartoon Network and Boomerang but Swat Kats finally got its DVD release in 2010. The show can be purchased on WB's shop site and Amazon. In the end, do I recommend Swat Kats? Absolutely yes. Swat Kats has become one of my all-time favorite shows, right up there with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Legend of Korra, Real Ghostbusters, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Any version except for the 2014 reboot and Next Mutation). That about does it for this review, this is GearsX clockin' out.