The Little Rascals is an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera in the early 1980s for ABC as part of a 90-minute omnibus with Pac-Man and Richie Rich, and a 60-minute omnibus with Monchhichis and Richie Rich. It is based on The Little Rascals 1929–38 period of Hal Roach's Our Gang comedy films.
Based on an undated production drawing found on eBay, it is believed that Hanna-Barbera was developing its version of The Little Rascals as early as 1970. Children resembling Darla and Buckwheat appear in the Harlem Globetrotters episode "The Great Ouch Doors".
As in many Hanna-Barbera series during the time, the Rascals appeared to be on adventures, trying to defeat Butch and Woim's (and sometimes Waldo's) evil schemes, helping out strangers in need, or fighting crime.
Due to fragmented ownership of the Our Gang properties, and a lawsuit in which Eugene Lee accused Hanna-Barbera of using his likeness without authorization, the Little Rascals cartoons have never been rerun on cable in the United States or released to home video. The series has, however, aired overseas, mostly in Europe. It is believed that Warner Home Video has the DVD rights to the series. However, in April 2016, Warner Archive announced on Facebook that this series is not cleared for a DVD release.
After ABC cancelled the series in 1984, reruns have since aired elsewhere in the world. Boomerang in Germany did acquire the rights to the series in October 2011 and aired on Saturdays and Sundays until early in 2013. After several months' hiatus, the series returned to Boomerang later in 2013 and aired seven days per week (later reducing to weekdays only), until they lost the rights by October 2014.
It is also speculated that the animated Rascals series may have a lot of politically incorrect and sensitive material in such a short series, which may also preclude cable reruns in the U.S. and home video releases. Such material includes Darla kissing Alfalfa on three episodes: "Rascals' Revenge", "Rock & Roll Rascals" and "Horse Sense"; Alfalfa pushing Spanky in a swing in "Out on a Limb", which could be perceived as homosexual; political debating in "Alfalfa for President", multiple Rascals mounted on and riding a horse in "Showdown at the Rascal Corral", and in at least five episodes - "Grin and Bear It", "The Irate Pirates", "Cap'n Spanky's Showboat", "The Case of the Puzzled Pals" and "Fright Night" - the gang was involved in activity that would normally require adult supervision in real life. It could be assumed that parents did not approve of this series to children, which would explain the low ratings it suffered on ABC and why it was not aired as part of USA Network's Cartoon Express block. It is also assumed that if the series had been rebroadcast in the United States, it would likely have been given a TV-PG rating and maybe aired during Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. There is rumor that episodes that aired somewhere in the world are rated TV-14.
The six principal voice actors were:
- Peter Cullen as Pete the Pup and Officer Ed
- Patty Maloney as Darla Hood
- Julie McWhirter Dees as Alfalfa, Porky and Woim
- Scott Menville as Spanky
- Shavar Ross as Buckwheat
- B.J. Ward as Butch and Waldo
Additional voice actors: Richard Balin, Jered Barclay, Julie Bennett, Susan Blu, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Jeff Doucette, Peggy Frees, Phil Hartman, Ery Immerman, Kip King, Earl Kress, Sherry Lynn, Larry D. Mann, Kenneth Mars, Joseph Medalis, Robert Ridgely, Michael Sheehan, Gary Stamm, Jeffrey Tambor, Russi Taylor, Lennie Weinrib, Jimmy Weldon, Frank Welker, Ted Zeigler
- Executive producers: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
- Directors: George Gordon, Bob Hathcock, Carl Urbano, Rudy Zamora
- Musical director: Hoyt Curtin
- Musical supervisor: Paul DeKorte
- Story Editors: Dick Robbins, Bryce Malek
- Writers: Tedd Anasti, Doug Booth, Patsy Cameron, Rowby Goren, Earl Kress, Dick Robbins, Bryce Malek, Reed Robbins
- Character designers: Floro Dery, Mel Keefer, Lew Ott, Jesse Santos, Jim Stenstrum
Changes from the Theatrical Shorts
Despite the involvement of King World in the production of the animated TV series, there are significant departures from the Our Gang theatrical shorts:
- Most obvious is the inclusion of 1980s culture and technology, such as multi-channel commercial television and microcomputers. In "Trash Can Treasures", Buckwheat acquires a microcomputer, on which Spanky asks him to find a place to invest his money. Buckwheat ends up drawing a Pac-Man–style maze on the computer's screen, suggesting that Spanky look for a place to hide his money.
- The Rascals have meetings in a treehouse and drive around their town in a wooden vehicle, with Pete hitched in front.
- Buckwheat is now portrayed as a gadgeteer, building complex devices from scavenged components.
- In the original films, Darla typically wore miniskirts, which were short enough to expose her underwear. In the cartoons, she wears a dress with a knee-length skirt. Also, her hair is a lighter brown in an updated style and with a pink bow, and her eyes have been changed from hazel to blue.
- Porky has a speech impediment, which Buckwheat usually translates for the Rascals, usually upon Darla's request. Porky is also obsessed with food, in a similar manner as Shaggy on Scooby Doo Where Are You!.
- Though Pete does not talk and usually acts like a real dog, his reactions and mannerisms often resemble those of Scooby-Doo. For instance, Pete has been shown handling objects with his paws, such as a ruler to measure one of Porky's sandwiches. Pete may also resemble Richie Rich's dog Dollar, where he may attempt a real-life feat only to end to slapstick disaster.
- Waldo is now implied to come from a wealthy family. This was seldom mentioned in the original shorts, but it carried over to the 1994 feature film.
- This series was expected to premiere on September 11, 1982, but was delayed two weeks because of an animators' strike.
- The opening to Season 1, after the Ghost Monsters chased Pac-Man over an abstract background, featured the Rascals as a band playing instruments mostly made from scavenged components. Darla was the conductor, Spanky was playing a slide whistle, Alfalfa was playing a homemade guitar, and Buckwheat was tapping a row of tin cans. Although Porky never played any instruments (he was eating), he let Pete play the harmonica. This part of the intro ended as a black disc rose toward their feet and carried the gang upward, transitioning to the second part of the intro to Pac-Man.
- Season 2's opening had Alfalfa and Darla sitting in the front of the homemade car, picking up the rest of the boys to join them for a ride down the sidewalk. Hiding adjacent to a hedge, Butch and Woim release a cat. Pete chases it, thus causing the vehicle to accelerate, and the Rascals eventually zip past Richie Rich's mansion.
- The last three episodes aired during the second season all featured a dramatic rescue scene where someone's life is in danger and one or more of the main characters attempt to rescue the victim(s). This may have been done as a last-ditch attempt to reboost viewership to possibly get renewed for a third season, but to no avail.
- There are 17 episodes in the syndication package. All of the 30-second skits and 11-minute cartoons - except for "The Zero Hero" - were included in this package.
- The Little Rascals may be the first Hanna-Barbera cartoon series to be broadcast on ASN (Atlantic Satellite Network) in Atlantic Canada after the network's 1983 launch.
In the 1982/83 season, each installment of The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show included two 11-minute episodes of The Little Rascals and one 30-second cartoon, whose title was not shown onscreen. In the 1983/84 season, The Monchhichis/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show, the 30-second skits were discontinued, and that season included nine new 11-minute Little Rascals cartoons, combined with four reruns from the previous season, one per week. The selection of reruns from the previous season may have been determined by ratings.
Long Cartoons, 1982/83
- Rascals' Revenge/Yachtsa' Luck
- Grin and Bear It/Beauty Queen for a Day
- Big City Rascals/Alfalfakazam!
- Showdown at the Rascal Corral/Poached Pooch
- Porky-O and Julie-Et/Just Desserts
- Alfalfa for President/Rock & Roll Rascals
- The Irate Pirates/All the Loot That's Fit to Print
- Alfalfa's Athlete's Feat/Darla's Dream Dance
- Cap'n Spanky's Showboat/The Case of the Puzzled Pals
- Falling Heir/Flim Flam Film Fans
- Trash Can Treasures/King of the Hobos
- Tiny Terror/Science Fair and Foul
- Big Top Rascals/Class Act
Long Cartoons, 1983/84
- Wash and Werewolf
- Save Our Treehouse!
- Horse Sense
- After Hours
- Tiny Terror (repeat)
- A Not-So Buenos Dias
- Class Act (repeat)
- Fright Night
- Porky-O and Julie-Et (repeat)
- The Big Sneeze
- Pete's Big Break
- Cap'n Spanky's Showboat (repeat)
- The Zero Hero
- Fish Fright
- The Serenade
- Scoop Dupes
- Ice Escapades
- No Hit Wit
- A Swimming We Will Go
- The Spare
- Fiscal Fitness
- Go Cart Go
- Do or Diet
- Out on a Limb
- Sea Song
- He Who Runs Away