January 17, 2015


A year ago this week, we lost the last surviving male castaway from Gilligan's Island. This weekend, we honor Russell Johnson, aka The Professor, with the cartoons based on the classic sitcom.

(CBS, September 18, 1982-September 3, 1983)

Filmation Associates

Bob Denver – Gilligan
Alan Hale, Jr. – Skipper Jonas Grumby
Jim Backus – Thurston Howell, III
Natalie Schafer – Eunice Lovelle “Lovey” Wentworth Howell
Russell Johnson – Professor Roy Hinkley, Ph.D.
Dawn Wells – Ginger Grant, Mary Ann Summers

            With 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island doing well in syndicated rerun ratings, the time was ripe to cash in on its new popularity with an animated series. The New Adventures of Gilligan was commissioned by ABC and produced by Filmation, featuring the return of all the sitcom’s actors except for Dawn Wells, who had another commitment at the time, and Tina Louise, who was trying to distance herself from the role she felt damaged her career. After two seasons, the cartoon was cancelled by ABC when the network severed all ties with Filmation over the failure of Uncle Croc’s Block, which was also produced by them.

Promotional still of the castaways from Rescue from Gilligan's Island with the Professor, Thurston Howell, Lovey Howell
the Skipper, Gilligan, the new Ginger and Mary Ann.

In the meantime, Dusty's Trail premiered in 1973 as a western-themed reworking of the Gilligan concept, starring Gilligan himself Bob Denver in the title role as the Gilligan-like Dusty. The other characters were all analogues of the other castaways. The series only lasted a single season in syndication. Three made-for-television Gilligan movies were commissioned by NBC. Beginning with 1978’s Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, the castaways ended up rescued but then later stranded once again on the same island. In 1979, The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island was intended to be the pilot for a new series with the castaways hosting tour groups on the island after it was converted into a resort by Howell, however it fell through and was later recycled as the plot for short-lived series Aloha Paradise. Louise was replaced by Judith Baldwin in both films. 1981’s The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island featured the Globetrotters helping the castaways thwart two villains from taking over the island to get a rare element. Constance Forslund played Ginger that time, with David Ruprecht standing in for Howell as his son, Thurston Howell IV (despite it being established the Howells were childless). Backus, in poor health at the time, made a brief appearance at the end.

The rocket that "saved" the castaways from Gilligan's Island.

In 1982, CBS decided to bring the franchise home with a new animated series. The castaways traded an island for a strange planet when The Professor (Russell Johnson) managed to cobble together a working spaceship on the island in order to get them off once and for all. Unfortunately, something went wrong and the ship crash landed on an unknown planet, leaving them stranded once again. 

The castaways in animated form.

            The show basically followed the same formula as the two previous series, replacing island themes for intergalactic ones. The same character models were used from The New Adventures of Gilligan with the sitcom actors once again reprising their roles, and Gilligan was given a new animal sidekick in the form of Bumper, a reptilian alien. The key difference was that Dawn Wells was able to reprise her role, as well as assume that of Ginger, replacing Jane Webb from the previous animated attempt.

Comic book ad for CBS' Starcade Saturday Morning, 1982-83.

            The show only ran for a single season of 13 episodes before being cancelled. The show is notable for being the last animated series Filmation made for the Saturday morning market, choosing instead to focus on syndication, and the last to use Charley Douglass’ adult laugh track as Filmation had gone into more dramatic series afterwards. It was also the first to feature executive producer Lou Scheimer’s signature-style credit, replacing the rotating Scheimer/Norm Prescott credit that had been in use since 1969. “Let Sleeping Minnows Lie” was the only episode released on VHS until Warner Archive Collection released the entire series to DVD in 2014.

            The same year as the cartoon, the full cast reunited for the first time on Good Morning America with host Kathy Lee Gifford (although Backus had to do so from a remote feed). The cast reunited one last time, along with Gilligan creator Sherwood Schwartz, in 1988 on The Late Show with Ross Shafer. In 1987, Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Russell Johnson and Wells all guest-starred on ALF as dark versions of their characters in a dream sequence. Denver and Wells would return for another dream in a 1992 episode of Baywatch while Denver would don the costume again for a 1991 promotional flyer for the Bally/Midway pinball machine based on the original show. In 1995, the characters of Roseanne play the characters of Gilligan in a fantasy sequence, with Louise, Denver, Johnson and Wells appearing at the end as their Roseanne counterparts along with Schwartz as the episode's writer. In 1997, Denver, Johnson and Wells again reprised their roles for the short-lived sitcom Meego. The three of them also participated in the 2001 docudrama Surviving Gilligan’s Island.

Hale who so loved his role, would continue to appear as The Skipper at his restaurant, Alan Hale’s Lobster Barrel, and would even wear the full costume when he and cast mates appeared on celebrity Family Feud episodes. Wells would go on to publish Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook with Ken Beck and Jim Clark, as well as star as “Lovey” Howell in the stage adaptation Gilligan’s Island: The Musical

“I Dream of Genie” (9/18/82) – Gilligan finds himself with a magic lamp and three wishes.

“Turnabout is Fair Play” (9/25/82) – A prank war begins between Gilligan and the Skipper.

“Let Sleeping Minnows Lie” (10/2/82) – The Professor builds a spaceship out of their huts and sends the castaways hurtling into space.

“Journey to the Center of Gilligan’s Planet” (10/9/82) – The Professor suggests the castaways explore their new planet.

“Amazing Colossal Gilligan” (10/16/82) – Gilligan falls into a radioactive crater and turns into a giant.

“Bumper to Bumper” (10/23/82) – Gilligan organizes a search party for the missing Bumper.

“Road to Boom” (10/30/82) – Mary Ann can’t get the courage to tell Gilligan she likes him.

“Too Many Gilligans” (11/6/82) – Gilligan accidentally drinks the Professor’s cloning serum.

“Space Pirates” (11/13/82) – Gilligan must save the castaways from space pirates.

“Invaders of the Lost Birque” (11/20/82) – The castaways become addicted to an old intergalactic board game.

“Wings” (11/27/82) – Gilligan claims an angel saved him from a crater, but only Mary Ann believes him.

“Super Gilligan” (12/4/82) – A mystic sage gives Gilligan a cape that grants him super powers.

“Gilligan’s Army” (12/11/82) – Gilligan plays army with some robots he finds, but they accidentally become his ACTUAL army.

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