Animation History
April 4, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

Calvin and The Colonel (1961)

Calvin and The Colonel was one of ABC’s animated prime time follow-ups to the phenomenal success of The Flintstones. Unfortunately, the show not only bombed – but it has essentially disappeared off the face of the Earth. The program aired on ABC, beginning October 3, 1961. As Stu Shostack informs us (in the comments below), all 26 episodes of Calvin and the Colonel aired in prime time. It started out on Tuesday nights at 8:30pm, but was moved to 7:30pm on Saturday nights from January of 1962 until it went off after summer reruns in September – and from there, into animation obscurity.

There are several nice posts about Calvin and The Colonel (I particularly recommend Michael Sporn’s), but I thought I’d post a few things I had in my files I haven’t seen on the internet… Like this publicity photo (below) of Writer-Producers Joe Connelly (right) and Bob Mosher.

calvin-mosher

Connelly and Mosher were veterans of the radio show Amos ‘n Andy, were were hoping to replicate that success with this animated version. Connelly and Mosher were the successful producer-creators of Leave It To Beaver – and a few years later would produce The Munsters.

calvin

The lead characters were voices by Freeman Gosden (as The Colonel) and Charles Correll (as Calvin), Amos and Andy themselves. This was not their first time voicing animation – Van Beuren Studios made two Amos n’ Andy cartoons in 1934.

calvin_freeman550

The show was made at Creston Studios and produced by Bob Ganon, San Nicholson and Gerald Ray. It had an incredible roster of talent behind the scenes:

Art Director: Norm Gottfredson
Visual Adaption: Lee Mishkin, Ed Levitt, David Hill
Layout: Ellie Bogardus, Bob Gore, Bill Kohn, Al Hubbard
Animation Directors: Chuck McKimson, John Walker
Supervising Animators: Tom McDonald, Fred Madison, John Sparey, Bob Bemiller, Ben Washam, Volus Jones, Jim Davis, Harvey Toombs, C.L. Hartman
Animators: Buf Partch, Arch Lean, Bob Maxfield, Barbara Williams, Earl Combs, Casey Onaitus, Phil Roman, Barney Posner, Morey Golub, Tom McDonald Jr., Frank Andrina
Production Coordinator: Dave Hoffman

The show was produced in color, but broadcast in black & white. Here is a surviving color cel:

calvin_cel

Merchandising was short-lived… a two issue comic book, and this board game from Milton Bradley:

calvin_game

Here are several publicity stills, the comic book covers and a three page bio of Godsen and Correll from the press kit (click thumbnails below to enlarge) – below that is a typical entry in the series. This is literally “illustrated radio”. Additional voices include Paul Frees and Frank Nelson. :

calvin1 calvin2 calvin3calvin_comic1
Calvin-Comic2 calvin_bio1calvin-bio2calvin_bio3

36 Comments

  • I like what I’ve seen of this show. Stylish animation, and the voice acting is top-notch. Although I can see why it failed, though.

  • I see some of the episodes are finally showing up on Youtube, several in color. I hadn’t seen the darn thing since its network run until the Thanksgiving show started to pop up on PD streaming channels a year or two ago. Couldn’t believe how well I remembered the intro and theme music!

  • Having heard and immensely enjoyed MANY of the A & A radio shows that were written by Mosher & Connolly, I regard them as utterly brilliant comedy writers. They successfully morphed previously existing characters that originally were NOT intended to be comedic. They accomplished the same with the Munsters. To me, the shows that they wrote were the most hilarious of the series’ run as a weekly comedy series (1943 – 1955). I’ve known about Calvin & The Colonel for many years, but was never motivated to try to try to view copies of C&TC because my perception of the A ‘n’ TV scripts is that (necessarily due to editorial & stylistic conventions of those years) they were lame. But this link, kindly provided to me today by a buddy (we share multiple interests) has lit the match under you know what.

    Thanks for posting the pictures of the related materials!

    Also, I highly recommend the book about A & A (which started as Sam ‘n’ Henry in 1926) by Melvin Patrick Ely.

  • It was only on ABC primetime for six weeks?!? Wow. I just remember wanting to watch it one night and my Dad wanted to watch Perry Mason, instead. Perry won. I was finally able to catch up with C&C thanks to poor wuality PD comps. Thanks for the eye candy, Jerry

  • Jerry,

    Thanks for posting about this now obscure series! I thought I would point out that The Munsters was actually conceived by Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, who at the time were trying to get out of animation (at Jay Ward’s) and into live-action. The producer they pitched their concept to essentially stole it and took it to Universal who replaced their cast of characters with the Universal monsters. When Burns and Hayward caught wind of what had happened, the Writer’s Guild got involved. The two not only received compensation but also credit–if you’ll notice the end credits list From a Format by Chris Hayward and Allan Burns.

    Darrell

    • Darrell,

      Thanks for the clarification on the history of The Munsters. I’ve rewritten my post above top reflect Mosher and Connelly’s (credited) role.

  • I am quite astonished that its (nighttime) run was so very short. I remember this like it was ystdy!!!

  • I still fondly remember the show and a number of animators who were mentors and people I worked with in the 80′s at Hanna-Barbera worked on this show. As a kid, I did remember the TV version of Amos and Andy and I had the suspicion that this show was an Animated version of it. I recalled it was on prime-time on ABC (it seems like at that time, ABC was the only network broadcasting a number of Animated series in Prime time), but as you pointed out the low rating shifted it to Saturday morning and then into syndication. It ended up on the Engineer Bill show on Channel 9. It was a great show and I wish it lasted a little longer than it did…

  • and don’t forget ABC’s reeeeally big nighttime animated hit : The BB Show!!!

  • Jerry:
    This is one of the more interesting bits of TV animation history that should be more fully explored. With the fact that it was chosen for primetime programming and that it had two broadcasting icons as its stars, this deserves a full length book study of its own.

  • Are all episodes of this show’s short run in the public domain? Sure would be really, really nice if someone were to put out a disk of all the episodes, as fully restored as they could possibly get it. A good percentage of them (possibly only in black and white) are available as part of that very large multi-disk set of PD cartoons, and the prints are fair at best, according to the sound alone. May as well represent it better in some way (hint, hint).

  • Amazon is selling a disk called CALVIN AND THE COLONEL IN COLOR. I don’t know anything about this disk, but I believe, according to reviews by customers, that there are two volumes. Again, I ask, are any of this show’s episodes still under copyright? If not, it sure would be a terrific treat to see an independent but well-researched release of the entire run! The collection I was previously talking about was called something like 1,001 CARTOON COLLECTION, and the CALVIN AND THE COLONEL episodes can be found on disks 7 and 10…or is that disk 9? Anyway, each cluster of episodes is quite long, so I assumed that was the complete run, but these are no doubt black and white and the audio is toyed with horribly on some of them. On a semi-related note, it is disheartening to see that, on the same collection, there are clusters of HOPPITY HOOPER episodes, so this doesn’t bode well for a possible restoration of that show anytime soon (sigh).

  • A couple of corrections – first, all 26 episodes of “Calvin and the Colonel” aired in prime time. Yes, it started out on Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. on ABC, but it was moved to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday nights from January of 1962 until it went off after summer reruns in September. I used to watch it right before first run “Leave it to Beaver” back then. It had a very short run in syndication right away, then resurfaced back in the 80s when Universal put the color versions back into circulation for a brief time. The show is still owned and copyrighted by Universal. Some people think that just because a show disappeared for many years, that automatically put it in PD. No! Universal renewed the copyrights on all 26 episodes in 1989 and 1990 respectively. What’s out there now in the video market are unauthorized bootlegs.

    • Thank you, Stu! You are the man who knows the network schedules (especially with all those TV GUIDES). I’ve corrected the post.

    • And lord knows if NBC-Universal will do a thing about the show today (though licensing to Shout! Factory would be nice).

    • I had a some feeling that this show is still copywrighted and now I know who owns it. And yes, it would be nice if Shout! Factory would get the liscense from Universal and do a proper DVD release. Although, I think the show is too obscure to get one.

    • This almost totally jibes with my recollections of the show (though I remembered it airing on Sundays, rather than Saturdays). My two most vivid memories of the show are that, even though I wasn’t quite six years old, the theme song embedded itself in my memory — and how delighted I was when, decades later, I finally saw clips and it was exactly as I remembered

      The other memory is how it was replaced by a show called “McKeever and the Colonel,” which I took to be a different version of the show. Imagine my disappointment to see a live-action Allyn Joslyn running a military academy rather than funny animals.

    • I remember this vividly as any ‘toon in primetime got the attention of this nine year old,as long as the family didn’t care(made easier when the show was buried on Sat.).Great theme!Another subliminal exposure to jazz,lounge music and big band that exploded in my teen years. Had to admit I had to read wiki to find out that comopser George Bruns was a long time Disney guy with co-writing credit on “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”.He had ties to the Firehouse Five Plus Two,which makes complete sense.
      So the real owners are those upstanding folk at Comcast,who recently threw Jay Leno under the bus(and I’m not a fan)after doing same to Ann Curry.They run a retro channel on subcarriers in their O&O markets called Cozi(COZI?) TV where this would fit in as a Sat. morning instead of infomercials and non-real reality TV fodder.

    • “Buried on Saturdays”? No no no–you’re thinking of today’s TV schedules. Saturday night was actually highly watched in those days, and putting anything on Saturday night was no more a penalty than putting it on Tuesdays. The drop-off in viewership on Saturday nigths was mostly created by the networks themselves, when they decided that people weren’t watching, and either dumped their lowest-budget shows there or replaced them with even cheaper repeats of stuff that aired earlier in the week. Now nobody watches because nobody thinks anything worth watching would ever be scheduled on–ugh!–Saturday night.

  • Back in 1982 I was writing an article for “Comics Scene” about the two “Crusader Rabbit” TV cartoon series made by Alex Anderson & Jay Ward (black-&-white, 1949-1951) and by Shull Bonsall (color, 1957-1959). Everyone I talked with said what wonderful people Alex and Jay were, and when I asked about Bonsall they either refused to say anything or really badmouthed him. When I interviewed Bonsall, he mostly boasted about how he had screwed everybody.

    Then I asked what he had produced after “Crusader Rabbit”. It was “Calvin and the Colonel”, and he admitted that he was the one who had gotten screwed on that. 1959 when “Crusader Rabbit” was wrapping up was also when “Amos and Andy” had become Politically Incorrect for TV and radio. Bonsall figured that Gosden & Correll were extremely popular voice actors except for the racial problem, so he would hire them to do a totally different funny animal program with their well-known voices, which should be a hit.

    The problem was that Gosden & Correll considered themselves to be major stars, far more important than a nobody like Shull Bonsall. They would only agree to work with him if he agreed to give them total creative freedom. They promptly threw out all of his ideas for something new, recycled their old “Amos and Andy” radio scripts with little more than the names of characters and locations changed, and they brought on as many of their old radio team as they could. So the charge that “Calvin & the Colonel” was just “Amos and Andy” with funny animals was accurate, but that was not what Bonsall had wanted.

    After “Calvin & the Colonel” bombed, Bonsall was washed up in Hollywood. Nobody would work with him after “Crusader Rabbit”. He was a foreman on his son-in-law’s ranch in Chatsworth when I interviewed him.

    • When I interviewed Bonsall, he mostly boasted about how he had screwed everybody.

      This doesn’t surprise me Fred! It shows in every episode!

      “Then I asked what he had produced after “Crusader Rabbit”. It was “Calvin and the Colonel”, and he admitted that he was the one who had gotten screwed on that.”

      Ha-HAW!

  • I actually love this show. I like pretty much every episode I’ve seen and wish it had caught one for at least a few more seasons. It at least deserves a DVD “complete series” release!

  • Speaking of The Munsters, a clip from Calvin And Colonel appears briefly
    in the episode “A Visit From Johann”. When Grandpa leaves Herman’s uncouth twin alone, he escapes from the dungeon and sits down in front of the TV and enjoys a clip from C&C. The soundtrack is simply cartoony-type music probably to avoid paying voice rights for such a short segment.

  • I LOVE THIS SITE. I never even heard of this show. the script and voice acting is amazing. Thank you for posting this.

  • My earliest television memory is of watching syndicated episodes of “Amos’s Andy” on a local New York station. Probably late 50′s. but even though I liked the show, I knew that it was somehow “off”. There were many African Americans in my home town, new rochelle, and I knew that this was not what they were like, that it was somehow offensive.

    When it was on, “Calvin and the colonel” was my favorite show. I had to fight with my family to be able to see it. I loved the simplicity of the set work, the funny characters and the distinct voices.
    I was crushed when it was canceled.

    It wasnt until years later , sharing hazy memories of the long banned “Amos n and” tv series in a college dorm, that I realized that “c and c” was just an animated version. None of my friends in college knew about “Calvin and the colonel”.

    Connelly and mother were outstanding comedy writers. The radio episodes of “Amos ‘n Andy” are brilliant comedy scripts, sadly diminished by the stereotyping which is very disturbing. “Leave it to beaver” is the only family show from its time that is honest, witty, perceptive and not saccharine sweet, preachy or just downright awful (father knows best).

    It’s a shame that “Calvin and the colonel” didn’t succeed; it had the ability to take the best of
    “Amos ‘n andy” and lose the element that makes it so unpleasant and offensive.

    Of course, I’m sure if I were to see those episodes today, I’d be very disappointed.

    Thanks so much for posting about it here!

  • I know I didn’t watch “Calvin and the Colonel” on network TV, as my area did not have an ABC affiliate station at the time.
    Anyone know what percentage of VHF vs UHF television stations ABC had at the time ( and 1962 was when a law was passed forcing TV manufacturers to include UHF channels on TV sets).
    There was a planned 3rd issue of the Calvin and the Colonel comic book, the cover at least still exists.

    • Odds are your station cherry-picked shows to air on TV at the time if they couldn’t be an affiliate of just one station. That was very commonplace back then.

  • Another cel from the same shot above; i think I bought this from Howard Lowery or Van Eaton Galleries…
    http://tag.rubberslug.com/gallery/inv_info.asp?ItemID=284045

  • Thanks for this informative piece on what proved to be the last gasp of Gosden and Correll’s once unstoppable “Amos ‘n’ Andy” franchise.

    The only thing I’d add is that Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher also contributed plenty of scripts to the televised version of “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” which I mention because I suspect that may have played a more significant role in their getting “Leave it to Beaver,” and, later, “The Munsters,” on the air than did their work on Gosden and Correll’s popular radio series.

  • This show aired in Japan, believe it or not. The Japanese title was “OK! Calvin” and it aired on Tokyo Channel 12 (now known as TV Tokyo) from October 3, 1967 to March 26, 1968.

    • At least they found a use for this show there.

      Love to read a post about that other ’61 prime-time toon that isn’t Top Cat, I’m talking about “The Alvin Show” of course, but I can wait, it’s not the end of the world, yet!

  • How odd. I remember the name of this series, but not the series itself. I was of the cereal munching age to be interested, but I was also a bit picky. I loathed Clutch Cargo, and any limited animation had to be really clever, like Bullwinkle. I didn’t even care for Top Cat. But this must have been on opposite something decent, or I would have at least checked it out once. But from what I’ve seen so far, I doubt I would have watched it again.

  • I remember Calvin & the Colonel- it aired in the mid sixties on Channel 11 KTNT in Seattle/Tacoma. I remember it as being very talky- as opposed to the other cartoons I watched at the time (Alvin, Beany, Rocky).

  • Just had to add this: Reader (writer and collector) Tim Hollis sent in this photo of a Colonel doll in his vast collection. Pretty cool, huh?

    Calvin_doll

  • I really don’t understand why this series is being described as a bomb. True, it ran only one season in prime time, but so did TOP CAT, so did THE ALVIN SHOW, so did THE JETSONS, so did BEANY AND CECIL. For that matter, THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW managed only two seasons in prime time. Yet, no one casually tosses the words “bomb” and “bombed” around when discussing those shows. CALVIN AND THE COLONEL differs only in that it didn’t have a long afterlife on Saturday mornings.

  • I recall all episodes screened on Australian TV back in the late 1970s and early 1980s as being in colour. They were broadcast in the morning slot for children – 7:00am onwards – on Channel 7 (which has since done a swap with Channel 10 so video tape versions are probably in the archives for Channel 10). It’s disappointing to learn that it didn’t perform well in the US because it was quite popular here… along with Rocky & Bullwinkle and a few other choice early morning kids cartoons.
    Many thanks for taking me down memory lane with Calvin and the Colonel…

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