After the failure of The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad (previously reviewed), Rankin-Bass decided that the best way to make an impact on Saturday mornings was to join the increasingly crowded bubblegum pop sweepstakes. And, so it was that the studio entered into an agreement with Motown Records to produce an animated series based on the Jackson Five (or 5ive, if you go by the title graphics). The character designs were done by the British animation team of Halas & Bachelor, who'd previously had worked on some Popeye cartoons in the 60's for King Features' TV division. Here's the open to the Jackson Five:
Seeing how the series was a relative success, Rankin-Bass followed up the next year with The Osmonds, with Merrill, Jay, Jimmy, Wayne, and, of course, Donny, acting as goodwill ambassadors while on tour. ClassicTelevisionFan posted the opening:
Unfortunately, only one season was produced for each series, preventing even the most remote concept of a cross-over between the two shows, and both were cancelled at the end of the 1972-73 season. Jackson Five made the rounds of syndication in the late 70's, but The Osmonds didn't, despite the fact that Donny had returned to television, this time with a live-action variety show, teamed with sister Marie. The Osmond family, then, likely owns the rights to the cartoon, which might've been co-produced with MGM (since the Osmonds recorded for MGM Records at the time). Thus, most fans probably don't realize that Donny & Marie (1976-79) wasn't Donny's first starring gig. Jackson Five last aired on cable on BET a few years back after a brief run on step-sister network TV Land. Amazingly, VH1 didn't bother dusting it off as part of a tribute to Michael Jackson, who passed away last year.
So what was the better show? Actually, they were about the same. That's all that needs be said.
Rating: B- (for both shows).