While exploring a cave off the coast of Maine, teenage twins Chuck (voice of Jerry Dexter) and Nancy (Janet Waldo) discover the broken pieces a mysterious ring. Recombining the pieces, the siblings are thrown back in time to ancient Egypt, where they encounter the powerful genie Shazzan (Barney Phillips). The genie tells them he cannot send them home, but he can help them on their journey to discover the all-powerful wizard who can. As they make their way across this forbidding, magical land, Chuck and Nancy get into all sort of scrapes; if things get too precarious, though, all they have to do is summon their new genie pal, who always knows just what to do.
Premiering in 1967 and running for two years, Shazzan (which is being released on DVD as part of Warnerís manufactured-on-demand program) proved to be one of animation powerhouse Hanna-Barberaís lesser efforts. While people have fond memories of Scooby-Doo, Space Ghost, and The Herculoids, youíre not going to find too many people who even remember this series, much less look back on it with anything approaching joy. Thereís a good reason for this: itís pretty bad.
Even at a young age I was able to stomach only a few Hanna-Barbera shows. I dug Space Ghost, got mad whenever I slept too late to catch Super Friends, and still count the original Jonny Quest among my favorite series (the various reboots were painful). Pretty much everything else did nothing for me. Had I seen Shazzan back then, it would have done nothing for me. Its hackneyed stories are, to put it mildly, repetitive. The animation is cut-rate. The voice acting is lackluster and familiar (Don Messickís flying camel sounds an awful lot like a certain mystery-solving dog, and Paul Frees sounds like Paul Frees). Every music cue is recycled from Jonny Quest.
Hereís a breakdown of virtually every plot: Chuck and Nancy get in trouble. They summon Shazzan. Shazzan makes lame quips while using his powers to dispatch the villain. Chuck and Nancy thank Shazzan for his help and fly off. The end. The only time this changes is when the writers go one better and have all of this happen twice within the same story, having the kids get in trouble early on and in even bigger trouble toward the end. All of that occurs within the span of eleven minutes. Each episode features two stories, so you get back-to-back sameness. It takes two episodes for this to get old, so imagine what itís like having to sit through close to twenty installments.
The only thing the show has going for it is its look. The great Alex Toth (who was responsible for designing Space Ghost) did the conceptual work, and many of the characters and settings exhibit his distinctive style. Unfortunately, Toth wasnít allowed to do anything beyond design work. His skills as a storyteller went unutilized, and the action lacks the dynamism he was known for. It took the input of Doug Wildey (which Hanna-Barbera has cruelly been downplaying over the past five decades) to make Jonny Quest something special; itís too bad Toth wasnít afforded the same opportunity here.
The series is presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio. The episodes are spread across two DVD-R discs. Given that not much work went into prepping the episodes for their DVD debut, they look surprisingly okay. Colors are occasionally vibrant, noise is kept to a minimum, and nicks and scratches are rare.
Audio comes in the form of Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks. The audio is a bit brassy, shrill, and tinny, but thatís to be expected. Effects can get creaky, and dialogue can be a hollow, but thatís also to be expected. Itís not much, but itís not terrible. No subtitle or captioning options are included.
The Power of Shazzan (6 minutes) gives Mark Evanier, Paul Dini, and a few other animation luminaries a chance to offer their thoughts on the show. They struggle to come up with anything good to say, offering little more than backhanded compliments. That says a lot, I think.
Iím sure Shazzan has its fans. Iím sure theyíll be happy to add this to their collections. Iím sure everyone else will be happy to pay it no mind.