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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.