DVD Review: The Heathcliff and Dingbat Show

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As someone who prides himself on a ridiculous amount of knowledge regarding television, it came as a real shock when I received the DVD set for The Heathcliff and Dingbat Show, a television program from 1980 that I never even knew existed.  I knew Heathcliff from the comics, but was completely unaware of this series starring the “sassiest, frassiest, classiest cat” and a trio of Halloween-themed characters that work for a company called Odd Jobs, Inc.  Having gorged myself on 13 episodes made up of two Heathcliff shorts and two Dingbat shorts each, I don’t really feel as if I was missing anything.  This release feels designed for those nostalgic for the characters and hardly anyone else.

I don’t mean that as an attack on the program at all.  It’s an entertaining enough series, never funny enough to actually laugh at, but silly enough to keep one’s interest.  Unfortunately, the animation style, voice-work and simplistic humor feel incredibly dated next to today’s animation and I just don’t see a modern audience latching on to this one.

Heathcliff, voiced by Mel Blanc of Looney Tunes fame, is a bit of a troublemaker, instigating conflict with the dogcathcers, garbage men, etc.  He’s not a mean-spirited character, but there’s a bit of an edge to the character that I enjoyed.  Overall though, there just isn’t any substance behind the character.  Occasionally, they’ll shoehorn the character into a fairy tale such as Jack and the Beanstalk or Little Red Riding Hood, but even with these segments, everything begins to blend together after awhile.

The other segments revolve around a vampire dog named Dingbat, a jack-o-lantern named Nobody (because he has no body), and a skeleton named Sparerib.  The three of them have a company called Odd Jobs, Inc., where they perform various jobs such as window washing.  I enjoyed these segments more than Heathcliff, finding the Adaams Family meets Three Stooges vibe rather endearing.  While repetitive, it was still entertaining to see Dingbat turn himself into a bat to get out of trouble or to see Sparerib contort his bones into whatever shape the situation demanded.

These are cartoons from a much more innocent time.  Aimed squarely at children, they are designed to entertain and nothing more.  For what it is, the voicework and animation work very well.  The DVD set doesn’t have any extras at all, but I’m not entirely sure what could have been included.  I highly doubt there was a lot of behind-the-scenes material from this show.  Considering that this is a program that is over 30 years old, the picture and sound hold up very well.  Again, nothing mind-blowing, but servicable.  Overall, I can’t recommend this to new viewers, but if you grew up with Heathcliff and the Dingbats, now is your chance to revisit these entertaining characters.

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