Jaws was released on June 20, 1975. The adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best selling novel about an island community terrorized by a great white shark became a cultural and box office phenomenon. Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical release scared millions out of the water and was the first motion picture to gross $100 million. Jaws was the highest grossing movie in history, until Star Wars in 1977. The movie’s popularity gave rise to the merchandising common with today’s blockbusters. The shark graced lunch boxes, model kits, T-shirts, bed spreads, and practically anything else you can think of. The premiere of two Saturday morning cartoons featuring great white sharks as fun loving heroes was possibly the most outlandish.
Jabberjaw was produced by legendary animation studio Hanna-Barbera and ran from September through December 1976. The series featured a 15-foot long great white shark who walked, talked, and was the drummer for the teenage rock band, The Neptunes. The show took place in a futuristic setting of undersea cities, and typical episodes revolved around Jabberjaw, Biff, Bubbles, Shelly, and Clamhead traveling to a city to perform, only to be caught up in a nefarious super-villain’s plans. The episodes built up to a chase with the villain to a musical number by The Neptunes. The teenage band format and musical chase followed the pattern employed with Scooby-Doo, Josie and the Pussycats, and Speed Buggy.
Jabberjaw was voiced by Frank Welker, utilizing a Curly Howard voice and frequently borrowing Rodney Dangerfield‘s catchphrase, “I don’t get no respect.” Frank is recognized as the most prolific voice actor in the business, with over 860 television, motion picture, and video game credits. Just a few of his roles included Fred Jones (Scooby-Doo), Speed Buggy (Speed Buggy), Oswald in the Epic Mickey video game, Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II (The Simpsons), Soundwave and Megatron (Transformers cartoon series).
Misterjaw was a DePatie-Freleng Enterprises production and featured as part of The Pink Panther Laugh and a Half Hour and a Half Show in 1976. Like Jabberjaw, Misterjaw walked and spoke English, albeit with a German accent, but also sported a top hat, purple vest with white color, and black bowtie while swimming around the ocean. He was joined by his sidekick, Catfish, who sported a brown derby and Brooklyn accent. They frequently spent their time trying to catch Harry Halibut or escape pursuit by Fearless Freddy the Shark Hunter. Misterjaw also enjoyed swimming up to unsuspecting humans, leaping out of the water with a loud “HeeGotcha!”, and laughing with Catfish as they ran away.
Misterjaw was voiced by comedian and actor Arte Johnson, which accounted for the German accent. Arte regularly use the telltale voice on the 1960’s television show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, where he would state something was “Very interesting.” His voice acting roles included Justice League Unlimited, Animaniacs, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, and motion picture roles included The President’s Analyst (1967) and Renfield in the Dracula comedy Love At First Bite (1979).
Jaws had the unfortunate impact of fueling a shark hunting craze, which saw thousands of these vital predators slaughtered for nothing more than a trophy kill photo. Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg regret the negative effect the movie had on shark populations. While neither of these cartoons were classics, they presented the great white shark in a less monstrous light and perhaps inspired some young viewers to learn more about these animals and eventually be involved in their study and conservation.