The animated series 'Flash Gordon' (1979 - 1982 NBC) was originally conceived as a live action film for television, but it soon became clear that live-action would be cost prohibitive, so an animated film was instead commissioned. The results were so well received that it was decided not to air it as a film, but instead as a series. The film was heavily re-edited to play as a weekly serial and many additional episodes were ordered. After the series was canceled, the original version of the film (which included a lengthy prologue and other scenes that were never seen in the series) aired under the title 'Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All.'
As the show was originally conceived for prime time rather than Saturday mornings, the first season was more violent and featured 'sexier' women than other Saturday-morning shows of the period. It also ran as an updated version of an old-style chapter play, with one overarching serialized story rather than separate, self-contained episodes. The second season was made more kid-friendly and abandoned the serialized format for two 11-minute mini-episodes, a miscalculation as the show's ratings then plummeted severely, leading to cancellation.
Dino De Laurentiis became a "ghost" producer on the series when Filmation developed monetary problems completing the animation involving the use of computers to create the spaceship animation, one of the first uses of computers in traditional animation. Since DeLaurentis was seeking the rights for the use of the Flash Gordon property for a live action film, and Filmation held the rights for all filmed media for the Flash Gordon characters, Filmation and DeLaurentis came to a deal. In exchange for the funding to complete the animation on the series, DeLaurentis would get the live action film rights to Flash Gordon while Filmation would retain the rights to animated projects featuring Flash Gordon.
The animated series first season follows, more or less, the traditional Flash Gordon mythos, opening with the launch of the rocket ship carrying Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov from somewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere (or at least the opening scene shows the ship clearing Earth's atmosphere above Europe and the Middle East). The series actually opens with the crash of the Terran ship into an ocean on Mongo after being attacked during the final approach to the planet.
In the opening scenes, after being captured by Ming's Gill Men, Gordon, Arden, and Zarkov meet King Thun the Lion-man and Prince Barin of the forest-kingdom of Arboria. This coincidence (meeting reigning royalty of two different realms by apparent chance) sets much of the tone of the series, in which it must be concluded either that logic is irrelevant, or that Destiny is at work in the arrival of Flash Gordon on Mongo. It is later revealed that an earlier king of all Mongo, more powerful than Ming, was named Gor-dan, and that he strongly resembled Flash. When he asks Zarkov why this is, Zarkov simply replies that there are some things even science can't explain.
The remainder of the first season consists of the adventures of Gordon and company across the face of Mongo, in traditional pulp style passing from one near-death situation to another with a cheery disregard for probability or logic, and a definite sense of fun. The protagonists meet Emperor Ming almost immediately, and Ming is revealed as being the classic archetype of the Evil Overlord. Flash later gains the aid of King Vultan, ruler of the Hawkmen and the bandit chieftain Gundar, the Desert Hawk as friends and allies, and also gains the attention of many of Mongo's female monarchs, such as the adventurous Queen Undina of Coralia, the kindly, smoky-voiced Queen Fria of Frigia, Azura, the powerful but delusional Witch-Queen of Syk, former lover of King Gor-dan who believes Flash is his reincarnation, and the strong-willed Queen Desira of Tropica. But the most notable of these admirers was, of course, Princess Aura. Violence is somewhat limited but not completely absent. Flash carries a ray pistol after the fifth episode, but uses it only occasionally, to set a stump aflame and attract attention, to bring down an avalanche on an attacking monster, to blast through a wall, and occasionally to stun but not kill adversaries. Prince Barin and his men are armed with "ice arrows" that freeze whatever they hit. Most other forces, including King Vultan's Hawk Men, the Frigian "snow troopers," and the royal guard and desert tribesmen of Tropica are armed with conventional ray weapons that disintegrate whatever they hit, as are Ming's forces, mainly composed of robots, although led by human officers. Ship to ship combat does result in the shooting down of several fighters on both sides, and there is a limited amount of hand-to-hand fighting in certain scenes.
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