Roller-skating was all the rage in the 70s, and it didn’t take Saturday morning cartoons long to latch on to the fad. The result wasThe Skatebirds, a mixture of live action and animation produced by Hanna-Barbera and first broadcast on CBS in 1977.
The Skatebirds consisted of three feathered friends, Satchel (a pelican), Scooter (a penguin) and Knock-Knock (a woodpecker, of course,) who hosted the show by way of costumed actors, and in animated form as well. In the cartoon, their nemesis was Scat Cat (voiced by actor Scatman Crothers of Hong Kong Phooey fame) who was perpetually chasing the roller-skating trio.
But that was only one of multiple segments on the show. Other recurring cartoon features included The Three Robonic Stooges, featuring everyone’s favorite slapstick trio – with newly acquired superpowers, no less, and Wonder Wheels, about a talking, human-esque motorcycle who helped his journalist owner solve mysteries. (The owner, Willie, was voiced by Monkees member, Mickey Dolenz). The third animated segment, Woofer and Wimper, Dog Detectives, were recycled cartoon shorts from an earlier Hanna-Barbera cartoon called Clue Club.
And in the fine tradition of The Banana Splits (also produced by Hanna-Barbera), A live-action segment appeared each week called Mystery Island. The story revolved around a plane crash, which left its crew – Pilot Chuck Kelly and siblings Sue and Sandy Corwin – stranded on a remote island, with their robot, P.O.P.S. The group was relentlessly pursued by the evil Dr. Strange, who wanted to acquire the robot for his own nefarious purposes – namely, taking over the world. Prolific voice actor, Frank Welker (Scooby Doo, Curious George,) voiced the robot.
The Skatebirds ran in its hour-long format until 1979, when the show’s duration was cut in half, mainly by removing The Robonic Stooges and Woofer and Wimper segments, which had each become their own Saturday morning series. The Skatebirds continued intermittently until 1981, but still shows up occasionally on Boomerang and the Cartoon Network.
If you have fond memories of watching The Skatebirds on the Saturday mornings of your youth, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Hanna-Barbera for their fine-feathered offering.