Cryptozoology for kids: 'The Secret Saturdays' on Cartoon Network

I am normally delighted to keep anything that occurs in the early morning hours of Saturdays a secret. That was before I discovered the Vol. 1 DVDs of The Secret Saturdays from the Cartoon Network. Debuting in October 2008, and airing at 7 a.m. on that titular day, it's an animated show about a family of cryptozoologists (the Saturday family) who travel the world searching for, and protecting, cryptids and other paranormal beasties whose existence hasn't been proven.

The show has a classic Hanna-Barbera vibe to it, and while it follows a lot of family-adventure cartoon conventions, it's not annoyingly formulaic. Our boy-hero, Zak Saturday is precocious but likable and has special abilities that allow him to telepathically communicate with monsters. His parents, Drew and Doc, are solid adventuring types in the vein of Dr. Quest and Race Bannon (who, let's face it, were a pretty cool same-sex parenting couple). There is also a trio of Scooby-like goofy monster pets who assist Zak in his shenanigans, and the big baddie V.V. Argost studied at the deliciously-over-the-top school of villainy to aide him in his quest to unleash a certain monster and - what else? - rule the world.

By incorporating new concepts and rocking old-school animation influences, The Secret Saturdays succeeds as both family-friendly paranormal pop culture fare and as a show that just draws in cartoon lovers who dig monsters and cryptozoology. Plus, without veering too much into a preachy, touch-feely territory, the show sends a message of conservation and tolerance towards even nature's creepier creatures.

Episodes air on Cartoon Network at 7 a.m. on Saturdays, but I suggest the collected DVDs. The first volume is out now, and Vol. 2 will be released in October.  Check out the promo clip below.

-aaron sagers