I discovered the website Do You Remember? recently, and have enjoyed looking back with them at some of the great moments in TV history. The other day, Neil Vazquez, noting the death of Saturday morning cartoons, shared with us his list of favorite Saturday morning cartoon shows.
I saw the list and noticed a problem almost immediately: the earliest cartoon show he chose was from 1970. He left out my favorite Saturday morning cartoon shows, the ones from the 1960’s!
Well, we must do something about that, mustn’t we? Here’s my list of the ten best Saturday morning cartoon shows from the Sixties, maybe even earlier.
Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales
A product of Total Television, a studio owned by General Mills, the sponsor of these shows, Tennessee Tuxedo (voiced by Don Adams, of Get Smart! fame) was a penguin who lived at the Megapolis Zoo with his friend, the dimwitted Chumley the Walrus. Tennessee would get the idea that he would want to do something (in this case, be a weatherman) and drag Chumley into it, only to find himself in over his head. They would then break out of the zoo and visit their friend, Phineas J. Whoopee, a brilliant but absent-minded genius, who would fill the gaps in Tennessee’s understanding, using his Three-Dimensional Blackboard, or “3DBB” for demonstration purposes. Naturally, when Tennessee tried to make his idea work, it would not end up well. The show would typically include an episode or two of Commander McBragg, a Baron von Munchausen-type character, boasting of his exploits.
George of the Jungle
If Jay Ward and Bill Scott, creators of Rocky & Bullwinkle, had written Tarzan of the Apes instead of Edgar Rice Burroughs, it would have been George of the Jungle. Like so many characters in that period, George was a lovable dimwit, swinging through the trees until he slammed into one. He also kept forgetting he lived in a tree, and would crash to the ground every time he left home. The “Jane” character was Ursula, with an identical twin, “Fella”; a close associate was Ape, an ape who spoke with a British accent; and he had a pet elephant (George called him a puppy) named Shep and a bird named Tookie-Tookie, with the distinctive call of “ah ah ee ee tookie-tookie!”. The weekly show included a couple of his cartoons and usually an episode of Super Chicken, a well-to-do chicken with a lion butler named Fred who turned into the title character when he drank his Super Sauce, and one of Tom Slick, a race-car driver who was always trying to stay one step ahead of Baron Otto Matic.
Another creation of Total Television, Underdog’s secret identity was Shoe Shine Boy, who had a girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred. He had several enemies, among them Simon BarSinister, a mad doctor-type character, and Riff Raff, a wolf dressed like a Mafia don, who would usually put Polly in some sort of danger, leading Shoe Shine Boy to take a Power Pill and change into Underdog, who would then save the day. Underdog was voiced by Wally Cox, TV’s “Mr. Peepers” and the original occupant of the center square on The Hollywood Squares.
The Bullwinkle Show
A television classic, Rocky and Bullwinkle’s show appeared in numerous formats, including this one. It actually aired on Sunday morning for a while.
King Leonardo and His Short Subjects
King Leonardo, another one from Total Television, was a lion who was the king of the tiny kingdom of Bongo Congo, assisted by his prime miniter, true-blue Odie Cologne, a skunk. The episodes usually involved preventing Biggie Rat (a rat who dressed as a gangster) overthrowing King Leonardo and putting the king’s twin brother, Itchy, on the throne. Biggie and Itchy were, of course, thwarted in their attempts. The show also included a Tooter the Turtle cartoon. Tooter was always visiting Mr. Wizard, a lizard who had the ability to send Tooter to another time and place and grant whatever wish the turtle had. Invariably, Tooter would find himself in over his head and Mr. Wizard would return him to the current time and place.
The Dudley Do-Right Show
A crossover between Jay Ward Studios and Total Television. Dudley was another dimwit, this time a Canadian Mountie. His girlfriend, Nell, had a not-so-secret relationship with Dudley’s horse. In typical melodramatic style, Nell was always being taken hostage by Snidley Whiplash, the stereotypical mustachioed villain in cape and top hat, and Dudley was always saving her. Not much of a plot, but the main attraction to Ward’s cartoons was always the puns and plays on words. The show had two Dudley Do-Right and The World of Commander McBragg cartoons and one each of Tooter Turtle and The Hunter.
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour
Not so much a cartoon show, The Banana Splits were a band similar to The Monkees. In fact, Bingo, the band’s drummer, was an ape (okay, a man in an ape suit). The rest of the band were Drooper, a skinny old dog who spoke with a Southern drawl; Fleagle, a happy and somewhat dopey-looking dog, voiced by Paul Winchell; and Snorky, an elephant whose voice was a bicycle horn. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera, the live-action characters became cartoons. Another live-action segment was Escape from Danger Island, featuring a young Jan-Michael Vincent. They also did one or two of their songs, not unlike music videos, an example of which follows.
This Hanna-Barbera cartoon started as a prime-time cartoon show (not unusual in the Sixties) and ended up on Saturday mornings. The cartoon was a feline version of The Dead End Kids; that’s really the only way to explain it.
Heckle & Jeckle
Terrytoons’ Heckle & Jeckle were identical-looking magpies (I prefer to think of them as crows). One spoke with a Brooklyn accent, one with a British accent, but it was never clear which was which. Naturally, they created lots of trouble and usually ended up on top by the end of the cartoon. One of my favorite episodes was “The Power of Thought,” in which they realized they were cartoon characters and, as such, impervious to the laws of nature. The following cartoon isn’t it.
Another creation of Terrytoons (the studio was eventually bought out by CBS), Mighty Mouse was a superhero who defended defenseless animals (e.g. mice) against evil predators (e.g. cats). It ran for years on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but really only got attention when Andy Kaufman used it in a now-famous Saturday Night Live skit.
So there you have it: ten of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons from the Sixties (and before). Your Thursday Ten for October 2, 2014.