Vintage 80s TV sci-fi show intros, including “Manimal,” master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man…

By on September 15, 2015

YouTuber RwDt09 has an incredible number of vintage TV shows at his or her disposal, and he or she’s one of our favorite mysterious curators (we can’t really find any info about him, or her!) This clip compiles some of the intros to sci-fi TV shows from the 80s: “Automan,” “Manimal,” “The Wizard,” “Wizards and Warriors,” “Misfits of Science,” “Shadow Chasers,” “The Phoenix,” “Powers of Matthew Star,” “Starman,” Outlaws,” and “The Highwayman.”

We didn’t remember all of these shows, but there’s one here that we loved and we thought it’d be good to revisit it again:“Manimal,” the short-lived series that aired on NBC. A 90-minute pilot aired on September 30, 1983.

The title character was the shape-shifting wealthy Dr. Jonathan Chase who had grown up in Africa, the son of missionary, and — get this! — he was able to transform himself into any animal he chose, which proved useful to the police who needed someone who was able to change shape.

Dr. Chased was played by Simon MacCorkindale, a British actor who considered Chase to be a “very cerebral individual.” We suppose if you’re going to spend hours and hours in the makeup chair, having to sit through the application of prosthetic makeup and also end up wearing a three-piece suit and tie in every episode (’cause, you know, that’s what rich doctors wear, you know?), you should try to find something cerebral in that.

The transformation sequences were designed and created by the Academy Award SFX artist Stan Winston.

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For every episode — except the pilot — actor William Conrad’s opening narration would tell Dr. Chases’s story: “Dr. Jonathan Chase… wealthy, young, handsome. A man with the brightest of futures. A man with the darkest of pasts. From Africa’s deepest recesses, to the rarefied peaks of Tibet, heir to his father’s legacy and the world’s darkest mysteries. Jonathan Chase, master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man… Manimal!”

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In each episode, Chase would assist Police Detective Brooke Mackenzie, who along with his friend Ty Earl, were the only two people who knew about his secret. Chase seemed to prefer either being a hawk or a panther, as that’s what he’d change himself into in nearly every episode, but over the course of the series, Manimal also became a horse, a dolphin, a bear, a bull and a snake.

“Manimal” was scheduled opposite CBS’s primetime soap opera “Dallas,” and was first hit with budget cuts that made it difficult to produce the show, but the show’s low ratings was the reason it was canceled after eight episodes due to low ratings, airing its last episode on December 17, 1983.

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In 1998, MacCorkindale also reprised the role of Dr. Chase from Manimal in an episode of the syndicated TV show “Night Man” in 1998, which was based on the The Night Man comic book published by Malibu Comics (later purchased by Marvel Comics, through its Ultraverse imprint). MacCorkindale directed an episode of the series too< which incorporated computer-generated imagery for the transformations as opposed to prosthetic makeup.

Meanwhile, if you missed “Manimal” the first time around, there’s good news (sorta depends on how much you like Will Ferrell, though): Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are partnering with Sony Pictures Animation, which acquired the rights two years ago, to make a live-action/animation hybrid action-comedy based on Manimal.

“I think it’s right down our alley, it’s what we do—it’s tongue-in-cheek and has an action component, but overall it’s a comedy,” McKay told Deadline last year, tongue firmly in cheek. “Like The Catcher in the Rye or The Sound and the Fury, Manimal has always been one of those elusive projects every producer dreams of taking to the silver screen.” No director has been announced, but Jay Martel and Ian Roberts (from TV’s “Key & Peele”) are writing the script.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.