Here's an excerpt on the SWAT Kats from a book devoted to discussing every American cartoon (every cartoon aired in America - not necessarily made there) from 1940 - 1993. Due to the time frame in which it was written the author mentions nothing from the second season of SWAT Kats because it had not yet aired. The author has not written a strictly unbiased commentary. He makes a few subtle comments that let you know his feelings - namely that SWAT Kats was nothing new in the cartoon world, just another "animal superheroes versus the forces of evil" show that borrowed concepts from the cartoons of its genre that preceded it. Not exactly what a fan of the show wants to hear, but the author does mention some interesting facts.

Additional Notes: The author either doesn't know how to spell the character's names (and got some flat-out wrong) or looked at some kind of early, preliminary material for the cartoon in which names were different. Anything in parenthesis is my correcting these names with those used on the show and the spellings from the second season credits. His description of the SWAT Kats' "land-air-sea Turbokatt vehicle" also eludes me - maybe he missed something or maybe the TurboKat was, at some point, devised as an even more versatile vehicle.
Also, there is a list of credit information that precedes the commentary on the show - the credits are taken solely from the episode "The PastMaster Always Rings Twice" so some of the voice artists mentioned aren't necessarily in every episode of the show.


Syndicated: 1993. TBS Superstation: 9/12/93-. Hanna-Barbera/Turner Program Services. Created by Yvon and Christian Tremblay (also given credit for "visual stylization"). Executive producer, Buzz Potamkin. Produced by Davis Doi. Directed by Robert Alvarez. Developed for television by Glenn Leopold and Davis Doi. Story editor, Glenn Leopold. Theme music and score by Matt Muhoberac and John Zucker. Sound editing by EFX Systems and Tom Gedemer. Re-recording mixers: Terry O'Bright and Bill Freesh. Supervising editor, Pat Foley. Animation directors, Joanna Romersa, Ken Southworth, Allan Wilzbach, Rick Bowman, Joan Drake, Frank Andrina. Design coordinator, Lance Falk. Design head, Tony Sgroi. Produced in association with Mook Co., Ltd.; overseas animation supervisor, Kunio Shimiamura. Voices: Charlie Adler, Frank Birney, Earl Boen, Keene Curtis, Jim Cummings, Linda Gary, Edmund Gilbert, Barry Gordon, Tress MacNeille, Gary Owens, Frank Welker.

Swat Kats, a 1993 addition to Funtastic World of Hanna- Barbera, was set in Megakatt City (spelled with only one 't' whenever it was seen written on the show). One would think that a metropolis entirely populated by humanized cats would be phenomenon enough, yet Megakatt City was festooned with phenomena of the psychic, ecological, and extraterrestrial variety: black holes, sorcerers, humongous blobs, even dinosaurs. Megakatt's mayor Meggs (Manx) and female deputy mayor Kalley Briggs (Callie Briggs) were compelled to rely on the protection of Cmdr. Farrell (Cmdr. Feral) and his Enforcers, a group of gung-ho G.I. Joe lampoons so wrapped up in their own egos that they hindered more than helped. Far more beneficial were two humble garage mechanics, Chance Furlong and Jack Clawson (Jake Clawson). When things looked bleakest, Chance and Jake donned disguise to become, respectively, "T-Bone" and "Razor," the vigilante Swat Kats. In their land-air-sea Turbokatt (spelled with only one 't' in the "Secret Files of the SWAT Kats shown at the end of each episode - particularly the end of the episodes aired the first season on TBS/Turner Broadcasting Station) vehicle, the Swat Kats were more than a match for the various cat-astrophes inflicting Megakatt City.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. I credit my 10-year-old son and his friends for spotting the "liftings" from other cartoon half hours which popped up on Swat Kats. The title logo and the "dark deco" veneer of Megakatt City were straight out of Batman: The Animated Series. (This at least was acknowledged by Hanna-Barbera, whose CEO Fred Seibert allowed that Swat Kats was "not unlike Batman." The notion of a modern burg in which animals, reptiles, and the like assumed all the human roles could have been seen anywhere in 1992-1993, notably on Dog City and Adventures of T-Rex, and long before that in the comics, vis-a-vis Scrooge McDuck's Duckburg and Krazy Kat's Kokonimo Kounty. The "vigilante vs. supernatural" angle was already being thoroughly explored by the 1992 hit X-Men (Swat Kats included a closing-credits invitation to its viewers to inaugurate an X-Men style fan club), and the same angle had been picked over in the 1980's, after a fashion, by both cartoon versions of Ghostbusters. And, of course, the whole notion of nonhuman superheroes can be tracked directly back to the Mother of Them All, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Swat Kats was in fact the second such animated series to substitute cats for turtles, as witness Space Cats.

Hanna-Barbera even borrowed from itself in at least one respect: All the female characters on Swat Kats had trim legs that the Sports Illustrated supermodels would have sold their souls for.

Disregarding the series' multiple TV-cartoon ancestors, the publicity for the weekly Swat Kats suggested that its creators had worked in a virtually TV-less vacuum. The series was conceived by Yvon and Christian Tremblay, two brothers from Montreal who'd forsaken that city's university because it didn't have an art departmen to their liking. Studying all the painting and draftsmanship references they could get their hands on (from Renaissance to Rodin to Disney), the Tremblays squirreled themselves away in their parents' basement and taught themselves to be artists. When struck by the notion to create a cartoon property, the brothers based the Swat Kats, so they said, on their own personalities; the character of "Razor" was an alleged take-off on Yvon Tremblay. And instead of memorizing the entire Saturday-morning cartoon schedule, the Tremblays learned the art of storytelling by reading magazines and classical literature.

When setting out to find jobs for themselves, the Tremblays utilized their research knowhow by drawing up a list of animation producers from various industry publications and sent out resumes. Hanna-Barbera's Fred Seibert, on the lookout for fresh talent, took the brothers under his wing. When offered Swat Kats, Seibert accepted the notion, with a laissez-faire "You create it, you take care of it." The Hanna-Barbera production team dressed up the results with some of the studio's most evocatively moody artwork and most intricate animation (no off-camera collisions represented by merely shaking the camera on this show), and to acheive that end lured independent animation producer Buzz (Berenstain Bears) Potamkin back into the cartoon- studio system.

In addition, Seibert promised the public a "Brian May" type musical score, adding that "The soundtrack is really going to be different for a cartoon." This time, there might actually have been a justification for the "different" when speaking of Swat Kats. Indeed, the property's full-stereo sound quality was only a tiny step below movie-theater level, virtually strongarming audiences into paying attention. It might have even seemed innovative had not Biker Mice from Mars, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, and Mighty Max premiered the same year as Swat Kats - each from a different producer, and each with its own superlative audio system, collectively yanking TV sound out of the "tin can" era.

Excellent draftsmanship and sound quality notwithstanding, the first reaction one had to Swat Kats was "But we've been here before." Hanna-Barbera produced an above- average derivation of earlier cartoon series, no denying that: but it was still a derivation. It would have been nice if Fred Seibert's hiring practices had equated fresh talent with fresh ideas.

excerpt from: Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1940-1993. By Hal Erickson. McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London. Copyright 1995.

Oh, if you're wondering, the caption under the picture is "'Funny animal' superheroes du-jour: 1993's SWAT Kats".

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