Friday, January 11, 2013

Why did Rankin-Bass fail on Saturday mornings?

Better known for their collection of Christmas (and other holiday) specials, Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass moved into the Saturday morning arena in 1966, but their body of weekend programming lasted less than a decade, with all but one of their series going to ABC. We will not include the studio's contributions to the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie.

*King Kong (1966): The original 8th Wonder of the World, as he was billed in the original feature film, was turned into a superhero in this series, a pattern that Hanna-Barbera would copy twice with other movie monsters (Moby Dick in 1967 and Godzilla in 1978). Tom of T.H.U.M.B. was the backup feature, and was perhaps the inspiration, in part, for H-B's 1973 series, Inch High, Private Eye, though some historians conceivably could've had the two mixed up a tad.

*Tomfoolery (NBC, 1970): A collection of short skits and gags, based on the works of Ogden Nash and others, failed to find an audience, largely because the humor was right over the heads of the viewers.

*The Reluctant Dragon & Mr. Toad (1970): Kenneth Graeme's tales had been told in animated form before, most notably by Disney some years prior. While Tomfoolery was given the lunch hour death slot, as I remember, Dragon led off ABC's lineup.

*The Jackson 5ive (1971): Michael and his brothers, voiced by other actors, made their entree into animation, with England's H-B (Halas & Bachelor) providing the animation. The series has been in syndication, and made the rounds of cable. Viacom has bounced it between VH1, Nickelodeon, & BET over the years, and a DVD release seems to be nigh.

*The Osmonds (1972): Coupled with the Jacksons to form a hour long (or better, if the Brady Kids had been in the vicinity of the time slot) block of pop music. Unfortunately, it lasted one season.

*Kid Power (1972): Morrie Turner's classic newspaper strip, Wee Pals, was adapted for television, but has become long forgotten, even though it covered some of the same ground as Bill Cosby's award-winning Fat Albert, over on CBS, which debuted the same year and lasted a total of 13 years between CBS & syndication! Go figure!

Other series were produced for syndicated markets, including The Wizard of Oz & The New Adventures of Pinocchio in 1961, and the series we all remember from the 80's---Thundercats, Silverhawks, & The Comic Strip, produced between 1985-8. In all R-B produced just six series for the networks, none of which produced more than one season's worth of episodes. And you wonder why R-B is only known for their primetime holiday treats?


magicdog said...

My guess is the failure of RB on Saturdays was the studio could handle holiday specials which were limited to an hour, but not the rigors of churning out a daily or weekly series.

Plus the animation for most of those projects was rather poor! Thundercats was done in an anime style so it seemed a bit better than the rest.

I used to watch the J-5 toon and let's just say it has aged horribly! Even the laugh track was poor!

I remember "Kid Power" (albeit vaguely) but I haven't even seen an ep since it originally aired. I do remember thinking the theme song was cool.

hobbyfan said...

Seems all we're going to get out of the rest is what's on YouTube. I'd previously reviewed all six series discussed. Used to watch "Power" fairly regularly. It was Morrie Turner's answer to Peanuts, if ya will.

Sweet One said...

Did "Kid Power" have a kid with glasses named Oliver? Seems like it did.

hobbyfan said...

Yes, he was one of the central characters on the show.