Above: Fanart by Jed Soriano
I still fondly remember the premiere of Warner Bros.’ Road Rovers. The night before (primetime Friday), the WB unveiled the first episode of Superman: The Animated Series, the first in the two-parter “The Last Son of Krypton” origin story. On the Saturday morning that followed, the WB repeated the episode – a potential ratings smash – and directly after they premiered an unknown superhero comedy called Road Rovers. Being the hardcore Superman nut I am, I re-watched the Superman TAS episode and tuned in for what followed.
Road Rovers is admittedly a very goofy and absurd cartoon, even for the studio that gave us Animaniacs, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to sit through. I enjoyed the premise specially-trained dogs from Earth’s most important, international politicians becoming bipedal man-sized soldiers who engaged in all kinds of wacky and action packed adventures… usually fighting terrorism and other criminals while their owners do the work of the government.
Led by Hunter, an inept but well meaning American mixed breed, the teams consists of Colleen, a frisky Collie from London; Exile, a blustery Siberan husky; Shag, a Chewbacce-like sheepdog with super strength; and Blitz, an egomaniacal German soldier with a chicken heart. The centerpiece of laughter in is definitely Blitz, who scares easily and is prone to screeching like a girl whenever he’s frightened or met with a horrifying obstacle. Jeff Bennett voices the character with immense zeal, stealing most of the scenes from the other characters and giving Blitz a real life to the show.
There’s also the running gag of another teammate named Muzzle, a very angry and violent dog kept restrained in a Hannibal Lecter type get up for most episodes. Only when the team really needs him is he unleashed, and most of his vicious attacks are left off-screen as the team watches and reacts with cringes and groans of disgust and horror. To round things out, they’re all coordinated and guided by the mysterious Professor William F. Shepherd who holds the group’s technology at hand and sends out to missions.
Road Rovers never made a ripple in the Warner animated universe, and that’s a darn shame considering the series supplied consistent laughter, and garnered a wonderful voice cast including Kevin Michael Richardson, Jim Cummings and Sheena Easton as the evil dog groomer who aided main villain General Parvo in his master plans.
While there is the explanation online that the show only lasted a season, I vividly remember it only lasting about a half a season before being replaced on Saturday mornings. The entirety of the short-lived series was eventually re-aired on cable in syndication. It’s about as clever as Freakazoid! and zany as Animaniacs but sadly, the WB seemed to be in a transitional period around the late 90s.
They seemed much more interested in pure, action-oriented cartoons not to mention being on the verge of importing tons of anime for their line-up including Pokemon. So, Road Rovers became a victim of the last hired, first fired programming cycle. The odds of seeing this series on DVD any time soon is slim, especially considering the show would be a tough sell for people who barely remembered it airing on television. I hope we get a pity release someday from Warner, though. I intend to bask in its furry glory.