Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cats in Cartoons

When I was a little girl, I watched a Saturday morning cartoon series called The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty. It was a parody of the movie The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty, as well as parodying pop-culture characters from Tarzan to Captain Kirk. I don't remember it being great television, and according to Wikipedia, it was only around for 13 episodes. Each episode started out with film of real cats and dogs and a voice over. When it came to the pivotal moment and one of the cats was in trouble, Waldo would wish he was one heroic character or another and that's when the show would shift into cartoon mode. The series aired in the fall of 1975. Here's a look at the title sequence:

I don't know why Waldo popped into my head this afternoon, but remembering that series got me thinking about some other Saturday morning cartoons that involved cats.

Hong Kong Phooey (left) followed the adventures of a janitor-by-day-crimefighter-by-night. HKP was an anthropomorphic dog who talked to and worked with human cops. His sidekick was Spot, a striped cat who usually saved the day in such a way that all the credit went to Hong Kong Phooey. HKP was voiced by the incomparable Scatman Crothers. The series aired from 1974-1976. 

Josie and the Pussy Cats (right) aired from 1970-1972. The characters, created first for the Archie comic books in the '60s, have a band and travel around the country performing and solving mysteries. It's sort of like Scooby-Doo with a girl band and a music video segment in every episode. The Pussy Cats' nemesis is Alexandra Cabot, the conniving sister of the band's manager, Alexander Cabot III. Alexandra has a pet cat named Sebastian, but he's the only "real" cat in the show.

Top Cat (below) was a cartoon series that first aired in prime time during the 1961-1962 television season, a little before my time. Cat-about-town Top Cat led a group of alley cats into get-rick-quick schemes and criminal capers that kept them hounded by the neighborhood beat cop.

The movies also brought us some cartoon cats who later made regular appearances on television.

The Pink Panther was designed for the animated title sequence of the 1963 Blake Edwards movie. In the film, clumsy Inspector Clouseau is searching for the cat burglar who stole the priceless pink diamond known as the Pink Panther. The cartoon was so popular that Warner Brothers, commissioned a series of cartoon shorts featuring the characters. In the late 1960s, the shorts were airing on Saturday morning television while new short cartoons were still being made for theatrical release.
Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes gave us one of the most fmous cartoon cats, Sylvester. The black and white cat was always trying to eat Tweety Bird, but the clever canary is wise to Sylvester's schemes. After uttering, "I tawt I taw a puddy tat!" the bird always manages to foil Sylvester's plots. Sylvester shorts started appearing in theaters in 1945, and since then he has had numerous appearances on television and in film. Some of the cartoons feature his precocious kitten, Sylvester Junior.

The adventures of Tom and Jerry have
entertained audiences for 70 years.

The oldest cat on my list is Tom from Tom and Jerry. Between 1940 and 1957, MGM released 114 cartoon shorts featuring the cat and mouse. Seven of those received Academy Awards for Animated Short Subject. From 1960-1967, another 47 shorts were made, and from 1965-1972, those cartoons aired on television. The shorts had been criticized for its portrayal of a stereotypical black housekeeper, so in some cases, animators replaced that character with a white woman, and for other broadcasts, only the voiceover was changed. New stories for television were created in the '70s, '80s, '90s and the first decade of the 21st century.

Tom and Jerry cartoons have also been criticized for its portrayal of smoking and its use of extreme violence. Though the cartoons never contained any blood or gore, and sometimes Jerry and Tom even seem to be friends, in the course of their adventures, Tom gets sliced in half, flattened by a window, burned in a waffle maker and so forth. Those criticisms led to some episodes being heavily edited for recent TV broadcasts.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of cartoon cats. What are your favorites?


hollow-man said...

You have forgotten Heaclif and Garfield... but the most important one,just like Tom or Silvester, is Jinx from Pixie & Dixie.

Kitty Chick said...

I forgot about Garfield's animated specials. Did he have a series? I've heard of Heathcliff, but if I've seen the comics or if there are animated specials, I can't recall them. "Pixie and Dixie" sounds familiar, but I don't remember it at all, either. We actually have a cat named Jynx, but that was mostly because my husband had just said, "We don't need any more cats" and when we got home, Jynx was waiting for us by the front door.