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October 10, 2015

Saturday Morning: 1965 - VIDEOS

by Richard Keller, posted Mar 29th 2008 10:44AM

Along with Secret Squirrel, Atom Ant premiered on Saturday mornings in 1965If the years 1960 to 1964 were a time when the networks put their toes in the Saturday morning waters to see what it was like, 1965 was the year where they took a few steps in. Not completely enough to submerge themselves, mind you...that would be left until the Fall of 1966. But, just enough to feel comfortable enough to dive in.

Like the nation, television was changing in 1965, and the shift could be felt on Saturday mornings. Gone were many of the post-primetime, live action shows that filled the schedule during the first few years of the 60's. In its place was more animated fare. And, that programming was geared to current fads that were taking place in pop culture during that time. It was also the year that a certain animation studio known for its primetime and syndicated fare took its first tentative steps back into original Saturday morning programming.

That studio was the mega-successful Hanna-Barbera. Ever since The Ruff & Reddy Show premiered on NBC at the end of 1957, the studio had steadily produced both primetime and syndicated fare for the still growing television audience including such shows as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Jonny Quest. However, while a good many of these shows eventually made it to Saturday mornings -- both The Jetsons and Top Cat were on NBC's schedule in 1965 -- the studio hadn't had an original program on since Ruff & Reddy.

That was about to change as two new Hanna-Barbera cartoons (actually, two big ones and four minor ones) premiered on NBC. The first was Atom Ant, which starred an ant with super-human strength, speed and the power of flight. With a battle cry of 'Up and At 'em, Atom Ant!', the pint-size hero would help the police in many cases. The second cartoon was Secret Squirrel, which featured a secret agent squirrel -- designated Agent 000 -- and his side-kick, Morocco Mole. Taking their orders from Double Q and using a variety of gadgets, including a flying car, the two fought evil agents bent on ruling the world.

These two shows had a significant impact in the Saturday morning schedule because of how they reflected the cultural fads going on during that time -- something that the other animation studios would reflect upon as the 60's shifted into high gear. With Atom Ant it was the fascination with superheroes that was still strong during the mid-60's. It was also significant because it makred the beginning of a trend of Hanna-Barbera superhero cartoons that would continue well into the 1980's. With Secret Squirrel the studio was parodying the spy-genre that was popular during that time thanks to the James Bond movie series. For example, Secret's arch-enemy, Yellow Pinkie, was a comedic copy of the main villain from the movie Goldfinger.

In addition to Ant and Squirrel, as well as their segments Squiddly Diddly, Winsome Witch, The Hillbilly Bears, and Precious Pupp (a possible precursor to the future Mutley), the other Hanna-Barbera cartoon to premiere in 1965 was Tom and Jerry. While not original programming -- the show featured the Hanna-Barbera/MGM shorts from the 40's and 50's -- it was the first time that the cat and mouse team had appeared on the Saturday morning schedule. Unfortunately, in many cases, the theatrical shorts were heavily edited for television of the 60's. For instance, the character of Mammy from the short Saturday Evening Puss was edited out and replaced by a thin, Irish-speaking woman. Some of the more extreme violence of the shorts (wasn't it all extreme?) was edited out as well.

On top of these three shows, as well as the premiere of Milton the Monster, the other cartoon to premiere that carried some major significance was The Beatles. Even though this series featured music from the popular band, it did not have any involvement from John, George, Paul and Ringo themselves. In fact, there are reports that the Fab Four disliked the series to the point that they avoided any other animated features until Yellow Submarine. Regardless, The Beatles marked another moment where pop culture invaded Saturday mornings and it paved the way for future band-genre shows like The Impossibles, The Archies, The Brady Kids and even repeats of The Monkees to appear on the Saturday morning schedule.

Next time: It's full speed ahead in 1966.

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Jeff N.

My brother and I loved Ruff 'N Ready as little kids. I'd loved to see those cartoons again. Any way possible that they were issued on DVD? I vaguely remember Professor Gizmo and Villains like Killer & Diller.

March 30 2008 at 1:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Beatles cartoon is one of my earliest memories...but now it's almost unbearable to hear "John" and "George" speaking with the voice of Inspector Fenwick from Dudley Do-Right. Paul Frees is perhaps my favorite voice artist, but this wasn't his finest moment.

Here's a funny thing: the other "Beatles" voice was Lance Percival, who went on to play Old Fred in Yellow Submarine. The director of YS, George Dunning, also directed some episodes of the tv show...and one of the YS writers, Al Brodax, was an executive producer of the tv show. Strange that even with so many factors in common, the two could be so radically different.

March 30 2008 at 1:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LOLs, I had an Atom Ant lunch pail back in the day when Atom Ant was popular (I now show my age), The Archies dominated saturday morning cartoons back then from my recollection, does anyone remember the surreal sci-fi cartoon 'Rocket Robin Hood'? That was one of my faves back then. The Beatles cartoon I was really into as well. Hmm, what else? The Banana Splits! Yeah!, that was big. And Penelope Pitstop was another big show, also Magilla Gorilla and Felix The Cat were big, Jonny Quest of course was a huge fave, The Flintstones of course, Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny was of course king, once the Monkeys came on the scene they blew everything else out of the water in terms of popularity, they even outsold the Beatles they were so popular...and Jimi Hendrix was their opening act on tour!


March 29 2008 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best of them all was Leonardo Lion.From the folks that brought us Rocky and Bullwinkle.

March 29 2008 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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