Prime Time Cartoons

With the announcement that The Jetsons are back in circulation on MeTV, let’s set the wayback machine for the era when cartoons were part of the Networks’ prime time schedules. The 1960s, Animation Career Review, remembers, “was a breakout decade for animated series, with some already making a name for themselves in the late 1950s.

“Take The Huckleberry Hound Show, for example. This syndicated animated series, and the second from William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (Hanna-Barbera), made its debut in 1958, but it wasn’t until after 1960 that the industry recognized the show by awarding it one of its highest honors. The Huckleberry Hound Show became the first cartoon to receive an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Children’s Programming in 1961.

“And then there’s Yogi Bear. This lovable character, who happened to make his first appearance on The Huckleberry Hound Show, landed his own series, which debuted in 1961. The Yogi Bear Show graced the small screen for another 25+ years and it went on to become one of the most popular cartoon characters ever produced by Hanna-Barbera.”

Underdog, Scooby-Do, Atom Ant, Magilla Gorilla, George of the Jungle, all of these are familiar to any kid who got up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons.

But for a brief time, several animated series were shown in prime time. Jay Ward and Bill Scott plowed the field, developing the Limited Animation process that made the quick turn-arounds required for a weekly TV series possible. Crusader Rabbit, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody and Sherman, Hoppity Hooper, George of the Jungle, Tom Slick, and Super Chicken are among Jay Ward Productions’ marquee cartoons.

It was Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose who ushered in the era of prime time cartoons. As Wikipedia notes, “Premiering on ABC in 1959 (and moving to NBC two years later), the series contained a mix of sophisticated and low-brow humor. Thanks to Ward’s genial partner Bill Scott (who contributed to the scripts and voiced Bullwinkle and other characters) and their writers, puns were used often and shamelessly: in a ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ featuring Little Jack Horner, upon pulling out the plum, Jack announced, ‘Lord, what foods these morsels be!’ Self-referential humor was another trademark: in one episode, the breathless announcer (William Conrad) gave away the villain’s plans, prompting the villain to grab the announcer from offscreen, bind and gag him, and deposit him visibly within the scene. The show skewered popular culture, taking on such subjects as advertising, college sports, the Cold War, and TV itself. The hapless duo from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, blundered into unlikely adventures much as Crusader and Rags had before them, pursued by “no-goodnik” spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, perennially under orders to ‘keel moose and squirrel’.”

But the most successful prime time cartoon was The Flintstones. InteroBang’s Kate Voss, wrote that The Flintstones, “ran from 1960 to 1966 on ABC. The program was the brainchild of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who essentially took the central characters from the classic sitcom The Honeymooners, and placed them in prehistoric times. The show is remembered for its primitive answers to (what were at the time) contemporary technologies, with small critters or dinosaurs typically serving as everyday appliances. They were, as the title song says, a “modern stone-age family.” For all its cutesy characteristics, the show didn’t shy away from heavier themes. One episode dealt with infertility issues (Betty Rubble is distressed that she can’t conceive, and the Rubbles ultimately adopt Bam-Bam).”

Other shows followed, including Hanna/Barbera creations The Jetsons, Top Cat and Jonny Quest. Warner Brothers spun up a prime time Bugs Bunny Show that plumbed the Loony Tunes library. And in the wake of Ross Bagdasarian’s success on the radio, Alvin and the Chipmumks became another prime time animated series.

Prime Time Cartoons were cheap to produce and filled in the time slot that would ultimately be given back to local stations as “Prime Time Access“. By late in the decade, the bloom was off of the rose and animation migrated from prime time to the weekends and ultimately syndication. But for a generation who were buying color TVs for the first time, we’ll always remember when appointment television included, Fred Flintstone, George Jetson, Alvin, Jonny Quest and Bugs.

Take this quiz to see how many Saturday cartoons you can remember.

Popular Prime Time Cartoons

ProgramEpisodesProducersYearsNetworkCompany
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends163Jay Ward, Alex Anderson, Bill Scott1959–64ABC/NBCJay Ward Productions
The Alvin Show26Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.1961–62CBSCBS Television Studios
The Bugs Bunny Show52Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng1960–67CBSWarner Bros. Cartoons
Calvin and the Colonel26Freeman F. Gosden, Charles J. Correll1964–65ABCKayro Productions
The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo26Millard Kaufman, John Hubley, Willis Pyle1964–65NBCUnited Productions of America
The Flintstones166William Hanna, Joseph Barbera1960–66ABCHanna-Barbera Productions
The Jetsons24William Hanna, Joseph Barbera1962–63ABCHanna-Barbera Productions
Jonny Quest26Doug Wildey1964–65ABCHanna-Barbera Productions
Top Cat30William Hanna, Joseph Barbera1961–62ABCHanna-Barbera Productions

Meanwhile:

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12 simple strategies all memorable brands use to leave a lasting impression. Via Canva.

Today In History:

1942, Congress advises FDR that, Americans of Japanese descent should be locked up en masse so they wouldn’t oppose the US war effort.

NFL Trivia: The Cleveland Browns are the only team to be named after their coach.

1945, From our “I didn’t know that” department, Paul Brown agrees to coach the new American football expansion team in Cleveland, which would later be named The Cleveland Browns after their coach.

1964, On their first full day in New York, The Beatles (minus George who had a sore throat), went for a photo-opportunity walk around Central Park. Over 400 girl fans followed The Beatles and extra police were called in to control them. Later in the day The Ronettes interviewed The Beatles for radio.

1965, President Johnson deploys 1st US combat troops to South Vietnam, with 3500 marines sent to protect key US airbase near Da Nang.

Planet of the Apes premiered today in 1968

1968, “Planet of the Apes” premieres in New York City.

1969 The Saturday Evening Post publishes it’s final edition. It was first printed in 1897.

1973, Max Yasgur died of a heart attack aged 53. He was the owner of the dairy farm in Bethel, New York that was home to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in August 15 of 1969.

1976, “Taxi Driver” directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster, is released.

Today’s Birthdays:

1828: Jules Verne, French writer known as the Father of Science Fiction” (Around the World in 80 days)
1886: Actor Charlie Ruggles (The Parent Trap)_(d. 1970)
1894: King Vidor, American film director (d. 1982)
1921: Lana Turner, American actress (Survivors, Falcon Crest, The Postman Always Rings Twice), born in Wallace, Idaho (d. 1995)
1925: Jack Lemmon, American actor (Days of Wine & Roses, Missing), born in Boston, Massachusetts (d. 2001)
1931: James Dean, American actor and cultural icon (Giant, Rebel Without a Cause), and 1st actor to be posthumously nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, born in Marion, Indiana (d. 1955)
1932: John Williams, (Jaws, Star Wars, Harry Potter, India Jones, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).
1940: Ted Koppel (ABC Nightline)
1941: Nick Nolte
1942: Robert Klein (Hooper, Deadly Rivals).
1943: Creed Bratton, from Grass Roots, who had the 1968 US No.5 single ‘Midnight Confessions’, plus 13 other US Top 40 singles. He played a fictional version of himself on The Office on NBC.
1946: Drummer Adolpho De La Para (Canned Heat)
1946: Paul Wheatbread, (Gary Puckett and the Union Gap).
1948: ‘England’Dan Seals (England Dan & John Ford Coley) (d. 2009)
1953: Mary Steenburgen, (Parenthood, Time After Time).
1955: John Grisham, American writer (Client, Firm, Pelican Brief).
1968: Gary Coleman (d. 2010)
1974: Seth Green (Family Guy, Austin Powers).

Much More Music:

1965, The Supremes release “Stop In the Name of Love”. The choreography for this song involved one hand on the hip and the other outstretched in a “stop” gesture. Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin of The Temptations taught the girls the routine backstage in London, before the Supremes’ first televised performance of the single on the Ready Steady Go! special “The Sound of Motown,” hosted by Motown enthusiast Dusty Springfield.[citation needed] They also performed the song on an episode of the ABC variety program Shindig! which aired on Wednesday, February 24, 1965. (Video)

1967, Peter (Asher) & Gordon (Waller) discontinue their singing partnership. Asher’s sister, Jane dated Paul McCartney between 1963 and 1968. He later became head of A&R for Apple Records, continuing his career as a recording executive in California, where he managed and produced Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor throughout the 1970s and 1980s.Their million sellers included “World Without Love”, “Nobody I Know”, “True Love Ways”, and “Lady Godiva”. The duo reunited later for a number of concert appearances until Waller’s death in 2009. (Video)

1990, Suffering from depression American singer songwriter Del Shannon died of self inflicted gunshot wounds. He scored the 1961 No.1 single ‘Runaway’, plus nine other Top 40 singles. In 1963, he became the first American to record a cover version of a song by the Beatles: his version of ‘From Me to You’ charted in the US before The Beatles’ version. Shannon had been working with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne and was rumoured to be replacing Roy Orbison who had recently died, in the Traveling Wilburys supergroup. (Video)

Today’s Quote Worth Re-quoting: “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” ~Oscar Wilde

Sometimes some of the best cover tunes are often done by the original artists. Let’s watch the  rollicking remake of The Turtles‘ “Elenore“, as re-imagined by “Flo & EddieMark Volman and Howard Kaylan, the two artists who were the band’s heart and soul. Turn this one up and tell me if you don’t agree that it supercharges your day.

Thanks for listening!

Scott Westerman
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit