I've had a fascination with animation history for years. I'm taking on the task of covering as much about television animation as I can.
Hanna-Barbera created a seemingly endless amount of package shows, series comprised of multiple unrelated segments, throughout the late 50s and well into the '60s. A holdover from the days of theatrical animation that lasted 6-8 minutes a short, these package shows generally followed a few unwritten rules. One was that the segments tended to be designed to be shown alongside other shorts, whether sticking with the segments they were produced alongside or splitting off later and mingling with segments from other shows, but the segments weren’t standalone shows that were later folded into the package format. Another was that the segments within the package show tonally fit together, comedy shorts were paired with comedy shorts and action/superhero shorts only aired alongside other action/superhero shorts. Very few deviated from this structure; The Banana Splits (in both its original run and syndication) broke both rules, though that could be excused as fitting the show’s madcap nature.
Another was a strange case of two shows that were very different from one another, but have forever been joined at the hip since.
Both ran on NBC and in the 10:30 am time slot, but during separate years. One was a futuristic comedy about child astronauts, the other a superhero show involving a Biblical figure. The blurb on the back of the DVD set for these two series poses the question, “What do pint-sized space travelers and a teenage science buff have in common?”
While there are superficial comparisons, the real connection runs deeper than that. But before they were combined, they were two individual series: Space Kidettes and Samson & Goliath.
The Space Kidettes
September 10, 1966 - February 4, 1967
The Space Kidettes followed the adventures of four child space rangers (Scooter, Snoopy, Jenny, and Countdown) and their dog Pupstar, who spent their free time in a clubhouse shaped like a space capsule. Together, they travel the cosmos looking for adventure and treasure, but right on their trail is the space pirate Captain Skyhook and his sidekick Static.
Much of the humor comes from the fact that the Space Kidettes are often completely unaware of the presence of Captain Skyhook, with their victories against him usually being out of sheer luck while they’re going about their adventure. One running joke also involved Static asking his captain why they don’t just use violence against the Space Kidettes, to which Skyhook would scold his assistant for such a thought because “they’re just itty-bitty kids”.
The Space Kidettes featured the voices of Daws Butler (Captain Skyhook), Don Messick (Countdown, Pupstar, and Static), Janet Waldo (Jenny), Chris Allen (Scooter), and Lucille Bliss (Snoopy).
Samson & Goliath
September 9, 1967 - August 31, 1968
Very much in line with the other superhero offerings from Hanna-Barbera between 1966 and 1968, Samson & Goliath was an action cartoon with designs by comic book artist Alex Toth. It centered around a teenager named Samson (voiced by Tim Matheson, best known as Jonny Quest) and his dog Goliath (Mel Blanc), who travel across the country on a motorbike. At each place they visit, they encounter different threats, such as aliens, evil organizations, and out-of-control robots.
When faced against these threats, Samson calls on his “Samson Power”, and touches the bracelets on his wrists together. He is then transformed into his Biblical namesake, a muscular strongman, and his dog is turned into a ferocious lion with superpowers like super-strength and energy blasts. With these powers, they take on the villains and rescue the locals before taking off for their next destination. These abilities have been compared to the Fawcett Comics character Captain Marvel, in that he’s a boy who can call upon the powers of a legendary figure, as well as Marvel Comics’ own Captain Marvel (the Mar-Vell version) from right around the same time, who was similarly summoned by a teenager touching powerful wristbands together. It could also be said that Samson & Goliath may have served as some inspiration behind He-Man many years later.
It should be noted that the series was originally titled Samson & Goliath, but it also goes by a different name. During the mid-season of the '67-'68 season, the series was retitled Young Samson, and became known by this going forward. It was never officially said why, but it’s been speculated that the issue was to avoid confusion with Art Cloakey’s Davey & Goliath series, which also featured a dog named Goliath, though in much less action-packed circumstances.
The Combined Fate of the Kidettes and Samson
So ultimately, what did these two shows have in common that they were later paired together? The answer lies with the sponsor for both series, General Mills.
Typically at this time, Hanna-Barbera would seek sponsorship from a company (such as Kellogg’s) to help fund the series, and while the sponsor may have had some input in the development of the show, Hanna-Barbera would retain full rights to the show for later distribution. This didn’t seem to be the case with these two series, as when they went into syndication, the shows were handled by advertising agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, which owned General Mills. DFS had previously been involved in Gamma Productions, the animation studio behind the works of Total Television, who produced shows such as Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo. Gamma Productions was about to close its doors by the time of Space Kidettes, which may have been why General Mills partnered with Hanna-Barbera to stay in the booming Saturday morning business.
Initially, the partnership involved the two shows having short interstitials produced by General Mills airing between segments. But when Kidettes and Samson moved to syndication, they were lumped into DFS’s Total Television library, being paired alongside shows such as Tennessee Tuxedo and Go Go Gophers into a half-hour block. However, to maximize the number of commercials for this syndicated block, both Space Kidettes and Young Samson were edited to shave off time. It was not long after that they were joined together, becoming Space Kidettes/Young Samson as a single show, with even more time removed to make the individual segments 10 minutes long as opposed to 12. Additionally, six episodes of Young Samson were removed, to match the same number of episodes as Space Kidettes.
The most unfortunate thing in all of this is that, from a historical perspective, this pairing resulted in the irrecoverable loss of material. To make the necessary time cuts and to combine the shows, DFS edited the original negatives for both Space Kidettes and Young Samson, with no surviving copies of the original broadcast prints known to survive. As a result, the six cut episodes of Young Samson, as well as the edited material from both shows, are lost forever, with the spliced versions being all that is now available, even after Hanna-Barbera regained control of the shows years later.
In the end, the pairing of these two shows came down to their connection by a shared sponsor and distributor, rather than any tonal or thematic connection, edited into a Frankenstein-like creation of missing parts. But for what is still there, both shows still hold a place in the memories of those who watched them, whatever form that may have been.