Sunday, August 29, 2010

Toon Rock: Cattanooga Cats (1969)

With the Banana Splits entering their 2nd season on NBC, Hanna-Barbera was asked to create a similar anthology series for ABC. This time, though, it would be all animated. Here's the opening to the Cattanooga Cats, courtesy of opulent7, who uploaded it to YouTube:

The Cats only appeared in a handful of episodes themselves, aside from blackout sketches and musical numbers. The other three components of the series gained more attention. Around the World in 79 Days was a loose adaptation of Jules Verne's Around The World in 80 Days, set in more modern times with a descendant of Verne's hero, Phineas Fogg, as the protagonist. Motormouse & Autocat was really a souped-up revamp----literally----of H-B's legendary cat & mouse team, Tom & Jerry (who were finishing their first run on CBS at the time). As his name implies, Autocat (Marty Ingels) used a variety of cars to try to catch the motorcycle riding Motormouse. Clearly, this was the most popular segment of the series, enough to warrant being spun off into its own half hour when ABC decided to split the Cats into two separate series the next year. It's the Wolf was a slapstick comedy-adventure serial about the efforts of Mildew Wolf (an uncredited Paul Lynde) trying in vain to capture Lambsy (Daws Butler, using his Elroy Jetson voice) and get around Lambsy's bodyguard, Bristle Hound (Allan Melvin). For some strange reason, Lynde didn't want screen credit for his work either here or on Perils of Penelope Pitstop, figuring sharp-eared viewers would recognize his distinctive voice anyway, and they did.

Unfortunately, even with the separation into two component half-hours, viewers waved goodbye to the Cats and friends after 2 seasons. Boomerang has restored the series to its original 1 hour format, but it hasn't aired on that channel in a while, which speaks volumes of the network's complacency the last couple of years, but that's another subject for another time.

Would WB be motivated to revive the Cats for a new generation? Last year marked the series' 40th anniversary, but of course it was ignored. To WB suits, the only show that matters out of the class of 1969 is Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. However, it would mean a lot to old school toon fans to take a chance, especially if you can completely reboot the Cats to account for modern sensibilities. For example, instead of being a rock band, the Cats could work as more of a country group. After all, the guitarist's name is, in fact, Country.

Rating: B.

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