TV animation is one of the most popular forms of television entertainment. It’s produced by many companies, including Total Television, Hanna-Barbera, and Rankin-Bass. Rankin-Bass, for example, produces cartoons based on the popular TV show The Jetsons. Jay Ward’s Total Television shows are also popular with children and adults alike. Cartoons can range from a few minutes to a half hour in length.
Rankin/Bass began producing cartoons for television as early as the mid-1960s. Early animated series included The King Kong Show (1966), which was co-produced with Toei Animation. Other productions by Rankin/Bass included The Tomfoolery Show (1968), Kid Power (with Billie Mae Richards and Motown’s Bernard Cowan), and The Osmonds. Later, the studio produced cartoons based on popular children’s toys, such as Ted Wolf’s ThunderCats (1970). The next decade would see the SilverHawks and TigerSharks.
Rankin/Bass created several animated specials over the years. In the early 1970s, the studio made several Christmas specials. Among them were Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy. Both featured Greer Garson as the narrator. Rankin/Bass’ name officially changed in 1968. The company adopted a new logo, although they continued to list Videocraft’s name as the closing credits until 1971. In 1971, Tomorrow Entertainment acquired the company.
The storied history of Hanna-Barbera television animation dates back to the late 1940s. It was the bread and butter of Warner Bros. Animation, produced on relatively low budgets and known for its snappy animation and broad slapstick plots. But the studio is not without controversy. Its recent troubles have been a reminder that the studio is still a major force in the world of television animation.
The company was founded in 1957 by Joseph Barbera and Bill Hanna, who met while working on MGM’s Tom & Jerry cartoons. The two eventually partnered to create Hanna-Barbera Productions, which would go on to produce some of the world’s most popular animated shows. Other popular cartoons created by Hanna-Barbera include the Jetsons and Yogi Bear. The company won seven Academy Awards and eight Emmys for its work.
A company founded in 1961 by Buck Biggers, Chester “Chet” Stover, Joe Harris, and Treadwell D. Covington, Total Television created cartoons for children in order to promote the sale of General Mills cereal. Its most famous cartoons include the popular Underdog series. The company also produced other animated series, including “Meet the Robinsons” and “Ragtime.”
Total Television’s first cartoon, “King Leonardo and His Short Subjects,” aired in 1966 and starred the titular king of the Bongo Congo. The show also featured Leonardo’s evil twin brother Itchy, a gangster named Biggie Rat, and a wily skunk named Odie. This series was cancelled after only one season on CBS. ABC picked up the series in 1967, and it ran on Sundays. According to Joe Harris, much of the series was lost.
After the success of “Underdog,” another series from Total Television Productions, “King Leonardo and His Short Subjects,” was produced and aired on television. The cartoons were so successful that they entered syndication. The cartoons remained in syndication for several years. Some of the elements from Underdog originated in Cartoon Cut-Ups, a syndicated package. In fact, many elements of this television series originated in this program.
The invention of television animated cartoons was a boon to the American economy, but it also created many challenges. The medium’s low ratings hampered the success of Jay Ward’s TV animation. But the studio was still able to produce innovative and entertaining cartoons. The company produced the popular Crusader Rabbit and was credited with launching the field of TV animation. The Crusader Rabbit character was the brainchild of Jay Ward and co-creator Alex Anderson.
The studio, which originally operated out of an office in Hollywood, was a home for cartoons by Jay Ward. His trademark characters included Cap’n Crunch, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Hoppity Hooper, and George of the Jungle. He also designed the characters for many famous cereal commercials, including Cap’n Crunch and Quisp. The studio also produced a slew of movies and several TV cartoons.