Animation History
March 5, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

Crispy Critters

Linus the Lionhearted is the most-famous of all the totally forgotten animated Saturday morning cartoons shows of the 1960s. It was the first of a potential onslaught of “half-hour commercials”- TV shows aimed at kids starring characters created for a commercial product. In this case it was breakfast cereal. In the future it would be action figures, Hot Wheels, video game characters and Rubiks Cube. An FCC ruling in 1969 forbade children’s show characters from appearing in advertisements on the same program and Linus was buried – in theory, never to be seen again.

Linus the Lionhearted premiered on CBS-TV September 26th, 1964, and moved to ABC-TV in September, 1966. It was produced by the company that created the character for Post Cereals a few years before – Ed Graham Productions.

crispy_critters_box

General Foods produced the show (and still owns the vault its locked up in). Here’s the first TV commercial from 1963:

The Saturday morning cartoon show was heavily promoted, on cereal boxes, in comic books, and instantly appeared on a variety of merchandising.

linus_lunchbox

linus_comic

The show had the greatest voice cast a children’s cartoon could have at the time. Linus was voiced by producer and character actor Sheldon Leonard (as Linus), Carl Reiner (the Grouse), Ruth Buzzi (Granny Goodwitch), Bob McFadden (Lovable Truley, So-Hi, Rory Raccoon), Jesse White (Claudius Crow) and additional voices by Jonathan Winters and Jerry Stiller.

linus_goldkeyThe show was produced by animator Ed Graham and Herb Klynn (UPA), and among the illustrious animation personnel involved were Irv Spector, Gerard Baldwin, Clyde Geronimi and George Singer (as directors); Clyde Geronimi, Rube Grossman, Ed Rehberg, Marvin Woodward (as animators); Corny Cole, Bob Dranko, Burt Freund, Dave Hanan, Homer Jonas, Tony Rivera, Sam Weiss, Bob Singer (in layout); Tom Dagenais, Bob Givens, Cal Howard, Bob Kurtz (storyboards), not to mention Ray Abrams, Frank Andrina, Tom Baron, Warren Batchelder, Bob Bentley, Frank Braxton, Brad Case, Jim Davis, Ed Friedman, Manny Gould, Ken Hultgren, Tom McDonald, Chic Otterstrom, Amby Paliwoda, Manny Perez, Virgil Ross, Ed Solomon, Stan Green, Burt Freund, Don Jurwich, Tony Rivera, Sam Weiss, Bob Bentley, Ted Bonnicksen, Herman Cohen, Ken Hultgren, Fred Madison, George Rowley, George Cannata Jr., Rudy Zamora among many many others…

Was the show any good? It wasn’t a Jay Ward laugh-fest, nor as slick as Hanna Barbera product at the time. It wasn’t a commercial for cereal, which is what all parents had feared. It was good clean fun, a bit bland, but colorful enough to hold the interest of an 9 year old – which was how old I was at the time it premiered.

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Here is a sample of a few of the cartoons…

Here is the record album, original tracks by the all-star cast…

It wasn’t a classic – but it doesn’t deserve to be buried. I’d be first in line to buy a restored version of the entire series.

36 Comments

  • Just FYI, General Foods is long gone. It was acquired by Philip Morris back in the ’80s, then merged with Kraft and Nabisco in the ’90s. The Post division was spun off and merged with the remainders of Ralston-Purina after that and spun off yet again and now exists as Post Holdings. I would assume Post Holdings owns the rights to Linus now.

    • Thanks of that update, Pat.

    • Yeah, Post Holdings seems to be it’s own thing rather than kowtowing to someone else. Still if it was something of interest to them if or had they had the nerve to go vaunt hunting for these things, a free DVD of Linus the Lionhearted episodes inside boxes of Super Golden Crisps would’ve been a nice nostalgic gesture.

  • I would be second in line, Jerry. This was a great series and I was a big fan of the show. I got a Linus hand puppet with a string that, when pulled, played Linus’ voice. It was a shame that the show stopped because of the FCC ruling. Couldn’t it have carried on as long as Linus did not show up in any of his commercials? They could have advertised other Post Cereals during the program. Kellogg’s Sugar Stars was my favorite cereal with Huckleberry Hound on the box. Huck stopped being on the box and then his cartoons weren’t shown on local TV in my area for a long time and then along came Linus the Lion-Hearted. I liked Crispy Critters and enjoyed the show and I was disappointed when it was cancelled.

  • And don’t forget the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon! The balloon version of Linus kept showing up year after year long after the show, not to mention the cereal, had become nothing more than a trivia question. Think he made it into the 90′s!

  • I remember first seeing the intro on youtube by the now closed account Freenbean. A really great theme song. The poor 16mm version compared to the album makes you pepped up for the show. I always liked wacky theme songs that made you hyped up for the show, especially the 1937-1945 arrangements for “Merrie Melodies” (Looney Tunes as a seperate series), and Animaniacs.. I also like how it went into the Post sponsor ID reminding kids what cereal box your favorite “Linus” character were pictured on.

    Remember at the same time Charlie Brown was shilling Coca-Cola and Dolly Madision in the context of the specials. Sure they were just logos followed by a commercial, but the Coca-Cola company was key to making the Christmas special. Those early specials felt like the subtle TV version of Lantz’s “Boy Meets Dog” or even Macy’s “Yes, Virginia”.

    Back to Linus (not the Van Pelt): I think people have said the cartoons felt like a Seven Arts Looney Tunes short.

    And I think the whole contrversy was younger viewers could not tell the difference if the characters were acting in a cartoon short or a Post cereal commercial.

    Even I could distuginish the commmercials from the cartoons at a very young age when I saw commercials (bumpers helpeed). Allthough the ad-based stations effected me as well, PBS is suprisingly where I remember the commercials more than I do the shows.

  • General Food’s connection to CBS and it’s lineup of Sheldon Leonard-produced shows, including Carl Reiner’s “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, helped bring together the voice talent for Linus. As with a lot of TV cartoons from the early 60s, the earliest episodes of the series were the best (and Leonard’s voice for Linus is a little more ‘laid-back’ in those initial episodes — he brightened his voice up as things went on, in the same way Daws Butler made his Yogi voice more chipper as times went on, because nobody wants a downbeat cartoon animal pitching cereal to the kiddies).

  • The inimitable Thurl Ravenscroft’s voice can be heard in the Linus main title theme, singing the words “The sweetest…” at one point. This series certainly boasted a cast of veteran voice talent, at or near the peak of its professional chops. It was also remarkable in striking a somber tone (with a faint wisp of knowing humor) in its weekly end title song. (“Linus and his friends must go…”) I can’t recall another comedic cartoon series made for American commercial television to take quite that tack. It plays against all sound commercial judgment, yet they were also making a valid, faintly satirical jibe at sappy endings in general. With crack musician Johnny Mann arranging the vocals for that piece, as well as, presumably, for the opening title, the strong musical result bulldozed any satirical intent, making for a memorably peculiar mix indeed.

    • Offhand, both THE NEW CASPER CARTOON SHOW and MILTON THE MONSTER had sad end titles about how dreary our next week would be till it was time for our friends to return from their weekly visit. So LINUS was hardly unique in this.

  • I, for one, was a BIG fan. I found its humor quick (mighty quick….espesh for Sat. morning!) I add-on characters were just as wonderful. So-Hi, Loveable, and that almighty hybrid of Bing and Dean : Sugar Bear!!

  • It was a good show and a lot of top Animation and voice talent worked on this show. Too bad there were only one season’s work of episodes produced..

    • Actually lasted two seasons, if I recall.

    • Yeah, two seasons. Lots of talent changed over by the second season. The whole thing was already getting wrapped up with the FCC stuff.

  • I loved this show, especially Linus, So-Hi, and Lovable B. Truly. BTW, So-Hi’s cereal was “Rice Krinkles” which was a knock-off of Rice Krispies.

  • Strange. I was a child during that period too, but all I remember are the commercials for Crispy Critters. I think they had more impact than the show. I was already cynical about Saturday morning animated fare, especially with stinkers like King Leonardo (Is this from the same group?), Underdog, and the Mighty Hercules (one step above Clutch Cargo). I already knew that the old Mighty Mouses were 10 times better than the new stuff being made for TV. It was no coincidence that the post-48 Looney Tunes outlasted all of them on Saturday morning.

    • “King Leonardo” was perpetrated by Total TeleVision Productions, with animation initially by TV Spots, Inc., and then provided, for the large remainder of the series’ run, by Mexico’s Producciones Gamma S.A. de C.V. (“Gamma Productions”).

  • Really like your new site,Jerry! Especially this post on Linus and the rest of the Crispy Critters gang! .I think the cartoons could have been more generally circulated if they weren’t so product-oriented.i think they were well written and rather clever.

  • Actually, as many folks know, other popular TV characters shilled breakfast cereals. My favorites were the many Jay Ward ads with Bullwinkle in them, and wasn’t Twinkles the Elephant originally part of “KING LEONARDO’S SHORT SUBJECTS”? But I guess that they downplayed the shilling aspect, or Quisp and Quake would have had their own show, too.

  • on linus the lion hearted, george cannatta was the show’s designer from the east coast and i was the show’s designer from the west coast. an amazing amount of talent worked on that show. imagine corny cole and bob dranko shared the same room!!!

    • Hey Bob!!

  • Strange thing..They actually showed this series on a local Boston TV (WFXT-25, I think) station during the late seventies. They ran it on a Monday-Friday morning time slot. It didn’t stay on very long, though. Maybe since SUGAR BEAR was still used on his cereal ,(The only one left) they still considered it a commercial. Maybe if they had waited til the eighties when HE-MAN, TRANSFORMERS, etc, were starting up it might have stood a better chance. Still. it’s interesting that it managed to be put into a syndicated package in the first place..
    Wasn’t a bad series. Loved the voices. Couldn’t stand Lovable Truly, though.

  • There was an updated “Crispy Critters” in the 80′s, but lacked Linus otherwise.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bmIKrU2jQU

  • The rule is that characters can no longer appear in commercials during their own program. In the olden days, it was common for TV characters to also do commercials — Long before Bullwinkle sold Cheerios or Yogi fronted Kellogg’s OKs, Buffalo Bob and Howdy sold Welch’s Grape Juice, Captain Kangaroo sold Schwinn bikes and Tootsie Roll Pops, and even venerable Miss Frances of Ding Dong School shilled for Wheaties. But Linus stepped over the line (no pun intended) by having the commercial characters become the stars of the show.

    There was a small rebirth of this in the 80s and 90s with the Power Rangers, Strawberry Shortcake and others where it was a little hard to tell whether the toys were a spin off of the show or vice-versa, but, again, you couldn’t have a Power Ranger commercial during the show itself. So you’d have a Power Ranger commercial, then a commercial for something else, then the show, and reverse it on the way out. A bit of a fig leaf, but better than going straight from a Loveable Truly cartoon to an Alphabits commercial with no buffer.

    • I think the only country that still continues that sort of tradition is Japan with some of their popular cartoon properties having commercials tied to the show in broadcasts.

  • LINUS THE LIONHEARTED didn’t disappear completely when its network run ended in 1969. As Chris has alluded to, the series was revived briefly in syndication in the late 1970s by the same company that handled the Spiderman and Marvel Superheroes cartoons.

  • I remember a few episodes. One begins with Grouse gathering up every pebble in the jungle, then convincing Linus they need a pebble-based monetary system. By virtue of having all the pebbles Grouse ends up owning everything, until Linus presents his subjects with a boulder — that collapses into a huge pile of pebbles with a tap of a hammer. Economic satire?

    Twinkles was from General Mills cereal so he wasn’t likely to appear with Linus. But I do remember that he’d star in little kiddie stories — extremely limited animation and a narrator doing all the voices — that didn’t explicitly reference the cereal.

    • I think those originally aired during “King Leonardo and his Short Subjects”.

  • I loved the Twinkles cereal because of the small comic book that you could make from from the back of the box.

  • wasn’t linus the lionhearted the first show produced specifically for the 1964 saturday morning season ….it seems up to that point everything was taken from prime-time or syndication….i know hanna-barbera’s first show for saturday morning was atom ant and secret squirrel in 1965…but i don’t think anything was done solely for saturday morning before linus….

  • Actually, H-B’s first show for Saturday morning (or anything, for that matter) was “Ruff ‘n’ Reddy”–it ran on NBC 1957-62.

    • true…. ruff and reddy were h-b’s first saturday morning enrty…….but it wasn’t a fully animated half-hour show….there were live segments in between the cartoons not unlike a “captain kangaroo type” format…i guess what i was getting at was that linus was the first “completely animated” half-hour show done specifically for saturday morning….

  • While I remember the ABC reruns on Linus from 1966-69, Linus was also shown in Syndication on WJAN-TV 17 in Canton, Ohio probably 1973-76 during a Costumed kid show called “Milton The Milkman” from 4-5PM or so in the afternoons..What I recall most is, that Channel 17 used extremely bad looking prints. If anyone could bring out a complete set of Linus that looks decent, i’d consider buying it..

  • This show needs a DVD release for the phenomenal voice cast alone. I loved this in the day, and I recently downloaded the mail away record again (google it- it’s available) and I was lost in nostalgia all evening. Love this show, despite the Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s character of So Hi.

  • I’m making a mad attempt to privately compile all the Linus The Lionhearted episodes. I almost have them all… Here’s what I’m missing:

    Wraparounds:
    “Water Skiing” 1964
    “Joke Day” 1964
    “Skateboard” 1965
    “Cool Cousin” 1966

    Linus Episodes:
    Swami Bird 1964
    A Gift For Linus 1964
    Leaping Lizard 1965

    Lovable Truly Episodes:
    One For the Book 1964
    Truly To the Rescue 1965

    Rory Racoon Episodes:
    Bye Bye Bad Bird 1964
    Rory Takes A Vacation 1964
    Make Someone Happy 1964
    Beautiful Baby Contest 1965
    This Means Total War 1965
    Some Total 1965
    Rory Goes Skiing 1965
    Numbskull and Crossbones 1965

    So-Hi Episodes:
    So-Hi and the Bamboo Stalk 1964
    Cinder So-Hi 1965
    The Walrus and the Carpenter 1965

    If you have any of these in any format (video, 16mm) let me know…

    • Hmmm, should check the two episodes I have on 16mm.

  • I remember watching the show on CBS. I rather liked it. So-Hi reminded me of a product that I remember liking in the late Fifties, when my family lived in Chicago. But we never saw Rice Krinkles in the small town where we lived in 1965.

    For some insight into the Crispy Critters ad campaign, see pages 191-194 of “Cerealizing America” by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford. Turns out that Sheldon Leonard did the thing for a new suit and naught more–just as a lark!

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