Cartoon Research Books
May 12, 2018 posted by Kevin Scott Collier

Telling the ‘TeleTale’ of Network TV’s first “Cartoon” series

At an very early age, growing up in the 1960’s, I was fascinated by animation. TV cartoons were a major attraction, which compelled me to become an artist and cartoonist.

But the creative moment that inspired me the most didn’t involve moving pictures on film, or TV cartoon characters and their adventures. It was the day I met a cartoonist at a public exhibition at a local art gallery. I stood next to his table and watched him, at lightning speed, scribble out drawing after drawing for young spectators.

“How does he do that?”

Remember, this was before Comic Con. This wasn’t some famous artist. This was a local artist who likely freelanced some of his work to magazines. This wasn’t some caricature artist, either, the dude who draws your picture at the carnival. This was a fellow, who in mere seconds, could draw a cartoon illustration of any super-guy, animal or thing you could imagine. And the results were astounding.

“How does he do that?”

Cartoon TeleTales, network television’s first “cartoon” series achieved just that for hundreds of thousands of kids during its broadcast from 1948-1950. It wasn’t an animated series, unless you took into consideration its co-hosts, who were very “animated” on camera. Originating at ABC Network studio headquarters in Times Square, New York, Cartoon TeleTales was the creation of two brothers, Chuck and Jack Luchsinger. Jack recited original stories every week featuring unique characters, while cartoonist Chuck Luchsinger drew 12-14 illustrations to accompany the tale at rapid speed.

Chuck and Jack Luchsinger

A handful of kids were invited into the studio to watch, listen, and participate. When the story time concluded, Chuck showed the aspiring young artists how to draw the featured character of that show. The spellbound and attentive looks on their faces were amazing. It’s one thing to watch a cartoon, it’s another to draw one.

Children at home viewing the show were instructed to draw the featured character as well, and mail their drawings in for a chance to have it displayed in Chuck and Jack’s Art Gallery, and have a chance to win a prize. The first place winner received a wood box filled with drawing tablets, crayons, and drawing implements. The second prize, a drawing booklet and pencils, was awarded to runner-ups. Artists were named and encouraged.

The television entertainment industry was in its infancy at the time. While Cartoon TeleTales was a network show, ABC only had 10 affiliates nationwide at the time. Even so, it wasn’t as if no one was watching, with over 1 million TV sets in American homes. In its first year on the air, Cartoon TeleTales received over 75,000 drawings mailed in by children, and some created and sent by their parents!

The program, along with the brother’s subsequent kids show, Jolly Gene and His Fun Machine, are the subjects of my new “Cartoon Research” book, Chuck and Jack Luchsinger’s Cartoon TeleTales. It provides a piece of TV history virtually lost time time.

Working with the siblings on their shows were individuals who became known talents in children’s programming and entertainment, like Babette Henry, who directed the Buck Rogers TV series, which debut in 1950. Ed Nofsiger, later of Mr. Magoo fame, was a good friend of the Luchsingers, and substituted for Chuck on occasion. Lee Orgel, who went on to bring us the animated New Adventures of The Three Stooges and Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, was a producer of Cartoon TeleTales. Bill Britten, of Bozo fame and other endeavors, worked on the Jolly Gene series. The Luchsingers were even pals with Bert (Miss America Pageant host) Parks, Chuck making drawing appearances on Stop the Music.

While Chuck and Jack both passed away nearly a decade ago, their legacy is cherished in the Luchsinger family.

Jack’s son, Jay, tells tales of being on Cartoon TeleTales when he was age one playing the 1949 New Year’s Baby.

Now on sale. Click cover to order.

“My dad managed to talk my mom into letting him use me as a prop on the show,” Jay said.

Chuck’s son, Bob, recalls when his father met with Walt Disney over lunch. Disney was exploring getting into television and Chuck pitched Cartoon TeleTales to him. Walt was more interested in the dozens of characters presented on the show and meeting didn’t end on a good note.

“I guess Walt Disney just wanted to buy the characters, and leave Chuck out,” Bob said. “He wasn’t interested in the Cartoon TeleTales, he just wanted to buy his stuff. So, Chuck was insulted.”

The family possesses one, perhaps two, Cartoon TeleTales episodes via Kine scope on film, since transferred to digital. It remains private, but a special viewing provided an episode description and screenshots for the Cartoon Research book. It’s really something fun watching the show, which made its debut 70 years ago. It reminded me, when I watched Chuck draw at lightning speed, of the question kids never get an answer to.

“How does he do that?”

11 Comments

  • Thank you for writing this post and this new book! Information about this show and the Luchsinger brothers has been scarce. It seems that there were a number of live drawing shows in the 1940s and 1950s for children with cartoonists like Syd Hoff, Lois J. Fisher, and Roy Doty. Hardly any have survived and it is great you got to see an episode of Cartoon Teletales from the family collection. According to Worldcat.org, one more episode of Cartoon TeleTales exists in the UCLA Film and Television Archives.

  • Without any knowledge based on reading the book, I’ll venture a guess that this was a variation on the old “chalk talk” format. The artist and the storyman likely collaborated before the show, and the artist very lightly sketched out what he wanted to do, at the proper time. Thus, he’d be in a position to make the drawings rapidly and fluidly.

    My apologies if I’m being “Captain Obvious” here.

    WJZ-TV is now WABC-TV; the name was changed in 1953. WJZ signed on in August of 1948, so this would have been one of the very first offerings out of that station.

    • There was a slight update to this concept done during the 1970’s and 80’s with PBS stations that ran “instructional programs” that involved around a person or two that performed much the same idea of telling the story while drawing the pictures. I used to watch these shows a lot like “Gather ‘Round” or “The Book Bird”.
      https://vimeo.com/3524549
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1xa6vzInC8
      https://vimeo.com/6459668

    • The chalk talk seemed to be a thing in children’s edutainment. I had Evangelical friends older than me who recalled chalk talks in Sunday school (Being a Catholic kid, I recall felt boards and illustrations).
      Here in Canada, I remember a woman who’d make regular appearances on The Uncle Bobby Show and draw little morality tales about her anthropomorphic worm (with a name that was something like Wiggley Squiggley; this was before Squiddley Diddley) . There was also a show that used drawings pixelated under the camera called Pick A Letter With George Feyer. There’d be a topic starting with a letter, and a series of gag drawings.
      I suppose today the chalk talk has been replaced by those whiteboard videos.

  • Growing up in the early ’60’s in suburban New York, I remember a kids’ host named Fred Hall. Viewers would send him five drawn lines and the request to draw from the lines a specific thing (such as an elephant), and he would do it, rapidly, on live TV. The segment was called “Mystery Lines”.

    No one that I talk to these days remembers him, but I found this web page:
    http://www.tvparty.com/lostny2fredhall.html

    • Dear Al,I remember “Felix & The Wizard”/”Hall In Fun”hosted by Mr.Fred Hall
      weekday afternoons on WNEW TV Ch.5 in NYC from 1962 to 1965..I enjoyed
      his”Mystery Lines”drawing seasons with the viewers, his puppet and character
      comedy skits that He performed..inbetween the reruns of “The Felix The Cat”,
      “Tales From The Wizard Of Oz”,”Rod Rocket”,”Deputy Dawg”cartoons,”Diver
      Dan”puppet films and”Adventues Of Jungle Boy”tv shows. It was a wonderful
      .and I miss that type of NYC kids tv..BTW:I wrote that article for “TV Party’s”..
      “NYC Kids Shows Round Up”Section.

  • By the way, Kevin, Ed Nofziger’s name is spelled with a “Z”, not an “S”. I got to know Ed when he was doing layout on the feature “Shinbone Alley” in 1969. Ed also wrote a book on animal cartooning for Walter Foster. I’m sorry he never told me about “Cartoon Teletales”, which is actually not an ANIMATED cartoon series, so is a little outside the range of Cartoon Research books. However it’s so interesting and so often mis-identified as animation, that it’s worth having the book just to set the record straight. Too bad so few episodes have survived, and that almost none are available for public viewing. Just try to view anything at UCLA, yikes!

    • Fixed name spelling in book, thanks. The title is unavailable until Monday morning, May 14, which will reflect the correction and back onto Amazon. You must have flipped out getting to know Ed. How exciting. What’s odd, by coincidence, the same day Cartoon Research announced the release of “Cartoon TeleTales,” the Luchinger family was at the memorial service for Helen (King) Luchsinger, the widow of Jack Luchsinger, the co-star of “TeleTales.” She passed away recently, and one family member said, “My husband will get a very needed lift from your book.” My prayers are with the family during their time of mourning.

  • The Disney anecdote is interesting.
    Before I got to the paragraph about meeting Walt Disney, I thought that image of Bigstuff The Elephant sure reminded me of Goliath II. Hmmmmm….

  • Also working on”Jolly Gene & His Fun Machine” as the voice and manipulator of the puppets..is Bill Britten.

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