The Warner Archive Collection has quickly established itself as the place to turn for your retro, nostalgic, cartoon fix, and their recent release of Police Academy: The Animated Series (Volume One) only adds to this perception. The series, which ran for two seasons between 1988 and 1989, was the product of Ruby-Spears Productions, the same company that brought you the original Space Ghost; Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!; and Alvin and the Chipmunks. I suppose it’s also worth noting that the series was adapted from the then popular Police Academy film franchise. However, it only needs to be noted because it seems that every single person I know below the age of 24 has never even heard of Police Academy, which makes one feel old, doesn’t it?
As delightful as it was to take this trip back in time to the television viewing of my youth, Police Academy: The Animated Series has not aged well at all. Unlike my reaction to Warner Archive’s recent release of The Snorks, this series did not surprise me with a fresh take on conventional narratives or a sharp visual aesthetic for that matter. Indeed, Police Academy‘s formulaic structure and narratives tire quickly, and the visual presentation is often downright unpleasant. To this end, each episode introduces a (typically new) criminal threat that officer Carey Mahoney and his crew must neutralize, while their nemesis Capt. Harris attempts to get them expelled from the force. They succeed, Harris looks like an idiot, and they do it all again the next time around only with different criminals and different unfunny jokes.
That said, the unusually large number of characters at the heart of each story (namely, the nine officers carried over from the films) and the resultant necessity to move quickly from one image to another prevent the episodes from ever being truly dull. Plus, the music is an absolute riot, with a theme song performed by the 80’s hip hop trio, The Fat Boys, who also, as it happens, recorded the theme to Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master the very same year. So it’s not like it’s a complete washout by any means.
Moreover, kids still like it! My one-year-old son came toddling in any time I started an episode so he could dance to The Fat Boys and point out the doggies in the title sequence. (Speaking of “doggies,” that reminds me that I’ve so far neglected to mention the Police Academy K-9 Corps, which is unique to the series but pretty blatantly aimed at generating interest in action figures. Therefore, I really don’t feel obligated to discuss the dogs’ minor role in the series here.)
Each episode concludes with a Public Service Announcement (PSA) relating one safety type or another to its child viewers in the way that so many animated series of its era did. It’s interesting that series such as this, or more popularly, G.I. Joe, portrayed themselves as socially responsible through their employment of PSAs, when the primary function of most, if not all, of the era’s animated series was to promote a line of related action figures. This tension is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in Police Academy, though, in which the primary narrative of each episode offers virtually nothing to its viewers by way of substantive, meaningful programming. Instead, its writers were content to offer the most superficial, run-of-the-mill cartoon hijinks imaginable. The juxtaposition of these flat narratives with each episode’s intentionally thought-provoking PSA then seems highly anachronistic.
Volume One of Warner Archive’s Police Academy: The Animated Series contains 30 of the series’ 65 episodes on 3 MOD DVDs, which, I might add, spills into the second season by four episodes.