Tom Ruegger And Paul Dini Remember Writing For The Two GILLIGAN’S ISLAND Saturday Morning Cartoons

There was a period in the 70s and 80s when popular sitcoms were turned into animated spinoffs, but Gilligan’s Island appeared in two incarnations.

Those seven stranded castaways certainly got around. Not only did they have three seasons of their live-action show from 1964-67, but they had a trio of TV movies and, in between, two animated shows. The first, The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974-75) could easily be considered the fourth season of the original. Same island, same actors voicing their characters (Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr. among them), and same silly situations as Gilligan inadvertently messes things up for the others while they work on a way of getting off the island. Give it up, dudes.

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Or maybe we spoke too soon, because Gilligan’s Planet debuted he very next season. In it, the Professor manages to build a rocket ship (?) to get everyone off the island, but, instead of heading to the mainland, they soar through the stratosphere and end up crashing on an alien world. So they’re stranded there, encountering the locals and working to get back home.

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Tom Ruegger, one of the creative forces behind shows like Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and Pinky and the Brain, says, “‘Journey to the Center of Gilligan’s Planet’ was the last script I wrote at Filmation. The show’s strengths were its voice cast of original actors from the series. The weakness was the intensely limited animation dictated by the Filmation production process that had virtually every comic action take place off screen and handled by off screen sound effects and close up reaction shots.

Veteran comic book and animation writer Paul Dini says of the show, “It was an assignment and I tried my best on it. It was one of my very first jobs when I was 22 and working, writing anything I could at Filmation. Lou Scheimer asked if I had ever watched Gilligan’s Island. I said, ‘Sure,’ and he said, ‘Fantastic. You’re writing this episode.’ I had four days. There was a monster in it. That’s about all I remember. Didn’t have any interaction with the cast, or know why CBS bought it other than it was a cartoon redo of a live series they owned that kids liked.

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Adds editor Joe Gall, “At first I thought it was a silly idea — I mean, they couldn’t build a boat to get off the island, but they could build a spaceship? — but then I saw the concepts and designs and I thought it could be cute. After all, cartoons are made for shows like this. The real strength of the show was our ability to get most of the original cast — all except Tina Louise. Their line readings were consistently flat, but they were the genuine article. It worked in the sense that it accomplished exactly what it set out to do. It successfully recreated Gilligan’s Island on a different world with similar plots to the original, and all using extremely limited animation. It was a nice, harmless diversion for the very young and it kept a lot of people employed at a time when most animation was being shipped overseas. I’d say it worked.

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