August 01, 2015


(ABC, September 7-December 21, 1974)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

Scatman Crothers – Hong Kong Phooey/Penrod “Penry” Pooch
Kath Gori – Rosemary
Joe E. Ross – Sergeant Flint
Don Messick - Spot

            Who is this super hero? Sarge (Joe E. Ross)? Rosemary (Kath Gori), the telephone operator? Penry (Scatman Crothers), the mild mannered janitor? That was the way each cartoon opened before going into the theme song by Chester Stover, W. Watts Biggers, Treadwell Covington and Joseph Harris with Crothers providing the singing.

Penry and Spot.

            Penrod “Penry” Pooch was an anthropomorphic dog who worked as a janitor in a police station. When he overheard a crime being reported by Rosemary to the Sarge (both humans, by the way), he dove into a filing cabinet and (after sometimes getting stuck in the drawers) emerged as Hong Kong Phooey: number one masked super guy. With his trusty book, The Hong Kong Book of Kung-Fu, cat, Spot (Don Messick), and the Phooeymobile, Phooey fumbled his way through protecting the city from the baddest of the bad.

Phooey and Spot in the Phooeymobile.

            Phooey was designed by Playboy cartoonist Marty Murphy with additional designs by Iwao Takamoto. Sgt. Flint’s design was close to Botch, the assistant zoo keeper from Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch, who was also voiced by Ross. Ross incorporated his catchphrase exclamation “Ooh! Ooh!” from his role as Officer Gunther Toody on Car 54, Where Are You? into his performance. Rosemary was shown to have an attraction towards Phooey, but completely disregarded Penry in much a similar way as Lois Lane favored Superman over his alter-ego, Clark Kent (before finding out who he was and their getting married in 1996, anyway). Also, like the implausibility of Superman using a pair of glasses to disguise himself, nobody could deduce that Penry--the only human-like dog on the show--was Phooey outside of his hero outfit.

Model sheet of Hong Kong Phooey in action.

            Hong Kong Phooey began on ABC on September 7, 1974 and ran for a single season of 16 episodes. The series was written by Jack Mendelsohn, Larz Bourne, Fred S. Fox, Seaman Jacobs, Len Janson and Chuck Menville. The show continued to be shown in rerun rotations for the next two years before eventually being paired up with Godzilla in The Godzilla/Hong Kong Phooey Hour in 1981. All the episodes were broken up into two segments except for the series finale, “Comedy Cowboys,” which was intended to be a backdoor pilot for several new characters: Honcho, The Mystery Maverick and Posse Impossible. However, while the show never materialized, a version of Posse Impossible would become a feature of The CB Bears Show.

Hong Kong Phooey the comic book.

            Most of Phooey’s merchandising came long after the show ended, save for three tin lunchboxes by Thermos in 1975 and a nine-issue comic series by Charlton Comics. Funko had released Phooey as part of their Funko Force, Wacky Wobbler (complete with glow-in-the-dark variant) and POP! series of toys. In 1999, Phooey was featured as a plush toy in the Warner Bros. Studio Store, and in vending machines made by Play-by-Play in a 11 inch and 13 inch version. A bendy action figure was released with Spot under the Boomerang network branding, and McFarlane Toys and Jazwares released their own action figure versions. Hot Wheels also made two different cars with Phooey’s logo and graphic on them. Phooey even received the salt and pepper shaker treatment complete with the Phooeymobile. In 2018, Phooey returned to comics as part of DC Comics’ second wave of Hanna-Barbera crossover one-shots. Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1 by Bryan Hill and Denys Cowan saw the 1970s version of Black Lightning teaming-up with a more realistic version of Phooey in an homage to 1970s kung fu movies.

The DVD cover.

            After the show, Rand McNally and Company published two short children’s novels: Hong Kong Phooey and the Fortune Cookie Caper (1975) and Hong Kong Phooey and the Bird Nest Snatchers (1976). The theme song, re-recorded by Sublime, was included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits from MCA Records. In 2006, Warner Home Video released the complete series on DVD, and later as two separate volumes. In 2009, the first episode was included as one of the featured cartoons on Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s Volume 1. In 2012, the first eight episodes were released in the United Kingdom on a DVD titled Hong Kong Phooey and Friends, which was also packaged with a Top Cat and Wacky Races DVD in a triple pack.

As well as being mentioned in several songs in the following decades, Phooey made a brief return to television in a 2001 short by Alan Lau and as part of Cartoon Network’s Web Premier Toons. It featured Penry as he appeared in the show, but a more massive Phooey who plows through a gang of evil anthropomorphic animals. In 2009, David A. Goodman was announced to have been hired to write a film adaptation of the show with Alex Zamm set to direct and Eddie Murphy to provide the voice. Despite some test footage being leaked in 2012, nothing has materialized of the movie as of this writing. However, the character did appear in another movie—namely the 2020 film Scoob!, with his likeness incorporated onto an arcade cabinet in an abandoned amusement park arcade for the fictional game, Phooey Phighter.

“Car Thieves / Zoo Story” (9/7/74) – A stolen car ring is operating in town. / A kangaroo helps Phooey capture animal thieves.

“Iron Head the Robot / Cotton Pickin’ Pocket Picker” (9/14/74) – Phooey chases a robot that steals every safe in town. / Phooey tries to capture legendary pickpocket Fingers Fazoo.

“Grandma Goody (Cat Burglar) / Candle Power” (9/21/74) – All the cats in town are being stolen, including Spot. / Two criminals force the city to use candles for their wax museum.

“The Penthouse Burglaries / Batty Bank Mob” (9/28/74) – Phooey investigates a series of penthouse robberies. / Spot and an octopus help Phooey stop a bank robbery.

“The Voltage Villain / The Giggler” (10/5/74) – Phooey faces off against a villain that can control electrical appliances. / The Giggler uses laughing gas to rob high-society parties.

“The Gumdrop Kid / Professor Presto (The Malevolent Magician)” (10/12/74) – A child-sized villain plans to take over the town’s candy production. / A magician disappears from the station.

“TV or Not TV / Stop Horsing Around” (10/19/74) – Thieves plan to steal everyone’s TVs. / A circus gang is stealing horses.

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall / Great Movie Mystery” (10/26/74) – A health salon is targeted by a series of robberies. / Phooey is tricked into helping a bank robbery believing it’s for a movie.

“The Claw / Hong Kong Phooey vs. Hong Kong Phooey” (11/2/74) – A mechanical claw steals gold from the National Bank. / An impostor claims all of Phooey’s glory.

“The Abominable Snowman / Professor Crosshatch” (11/9/74) – A snowman steals equipment for a luxury ski resort. / An evil professor trains his bird to steal jewels from store windows.

“Goldfisher / Green Thumb” (11/16/74) – A gang steals a competitor’s fish to raise the cost of fishing. / A gang wants to remove all the plants from the city.

“From Bad to Verse (Rotten Rhymer) / Kong and the Counterfeiters” (11/23/74) – Rotten Rhymer plots to steal the nation’s books. / Phooey investigates a counterfeiting ring.

“The Great Choo Choo Robbery / Patty Cake, Patty Cake, Bakery Man” (11/30/74) – Jim Shady plans to steal every railroad car. / A gang steals jewels by hiding in pastry.

“Mr. Tornado / The Little Crook Who Wasn’t There” (12/7/74) – A villain robs banks by using his super breath. / Phooey tries to find a criminal who can disappear.

“Mr. Disguiso / The Incredible Mr. Shrink” (12/14/74) – A master of disguise robs banks. / A businessman terrorizes the city into buying his umbrellas.

“Comedy Cowboys” (12/21/74) – Tin Nose frames Phooey for a crime, and it’s up to Honcho, The Mystery Maverick and Posse Impossible to clear his name.

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.

1 comment:

LTYSON said...

A crazy little cartoon with a little cool factor. Loved the theme song. This was my favorite cartoon as a young child. Looking back now, not the greatest cartoon ever made. However, it is still one of my favorites for the nostalgia factor. There is plenty of potential with some of the characters to make a cool updated version. Would love to see something like that!