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April 12, 2024 posted by Michael Lyons

A Whole “Bunch” of Fun! Looking Back at “The Brady Kids”

What’s your favorite episode of The Brady Bunch? Is it the one where the kids sing “Time to Change,” and Peter’s voice cracks? Maybe it’s when Jan pretended to have a boyfriend named George Glass? Or perhaps it was the episode where the kids met Wonder Woman?

Wait, what?!? Yes, that last episode happened, and yes, it was part of the “Brady Universe,” but it didn’t happen on The Brady Bunch; it happened on The Brady Kids.

During the height of popularity of ABC’s now iconic prime-time sitcom, The Brady Bunch, the show inspired a Saturday morning animated show focused on the three brothers and three sisters: The Brady Kids.

With this spring marking the fiftieth anniversary of when The Brady Bunch aired its final episode on March 8, 1974, it’s the perfect time to remember The Brady Kids and how Mike and Carol Brady’s children were able to embark on some very animated adventures.

Produced by Filmation studio (who had brought audiences several animated series, including the popular Archie Show), The Brady Kids started life as part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, an anthology series of one-hour animated movies for kids.

One of these was The Brady Kids on Mysterious Island, which aired on September 9th, 1972, and served as the pilot for the series. Very different from the prime-time show, the kids and their dog, “Mop Top”, enter a hot air balloon race, winding up on the titular island. While there, they meet a number of fantastical characters, including a giant parakeet, Father Nature, and oversized crabs. They also meet up with three characters who would become regulars on the show, including a talking myna bird named Marlon, who wears a sorcerer’s hat and flies by turning his tailfeathers into a helicopter, and two identical pandas named Ping and Pong.

The movie’s more imaginative elements (eventually split up into two episodes as part of the show) were indicative of many of the episodes that would follow on The Brady Kids. Another involved Marlon, with his magical powers, transforming Bobby into a famous movie star named Clint Flint, and another where the kids befriend Martians from Venus.

There were even guest stars on the show, such as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, as well as DC’s famous superheroes, Superman and Wonder Woman (The Brady Kids marked the latter character’s first appearance in animation).

There were, however, some aspects of The Brady Kids that were familiar. Sherwood Schwartz, who created The Brady Bunch, was on board as The Brady Kids’ executive consultant.

The cast of young actors also joined the animated series. Barry William (Greg), Maureen McCormick (Marsha), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan), Bobby Lookinland (Bobby), and Susan Olsen (Cindy) all provided the voices of their animated counterparts in season one. In season two, Erika Scheimer and Lane Scheimer, children of Lou Scheimer (who founded Filmation with Hal Sutherland and Norm Prescott), replaced Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams as Marcia and Greg, respectively.

The theme song of The Brady Kids was also a re-designed version of the very familiar prime-time theme. Each of the kids even appear in their “boxes,” in live-action as they do at the start of each episode of The Brady Bunch, but here, they are transformed into their animated form by Marlon as he flies by.

The kids also take the time in each show to perform a song, including “Time to Change,” and “It’s a Sunshine Day,” which were both performed on the live-action sitcom.

In these musical moments, Filmation employed some economy, recycling animation of The Archies performing and replacing those movements with The Brady Kids performing. Peter’s moves on the guitar are just like Reggie’s, Jan playing the keyboard seems a lot like Veronica playing the keyboard, etc. Even the Brady Kids’ dog, Mop Top, looks and moves like The Archie’s pet, Hot Dog.

Mop Top and Marlon

Filmation also utilized its reliable voice actors for The Brady Kids, including the multi-talented actress Jane Webb and comedian Larry Storch (of F-Troop fame). One of the characters Storch voiced was Marlon, which allowed for the comedian’s talents as an impressionist, mimicking everyone from W.C. Fields to Cary Grant.

The Brady Kids even resulted in a spin-off series, Mission: Magic!, featuring the kids’ teacher, Miss Tickle, who had magical powers and also starred an animated incarnation of singer Rick Springfield.

With Sutherland credited as the show’s director, The Brady Kids employed creativity in their sometimes-outlandish adventures. The series never showed the parents or housekeeper Alice, but instead, it would feature the kids in their clubhouse as a home base before embarking on their next escapade.

This element of the kids’ independently exploring in each episode, coupled with the wild backdrops and characters encountered, helped The Brady Kids capture the imagination of children growing up with the show.

The Brady Kids also utilized fun character design, all in the recognizable Filmation-style. The kids were not only clever caricatures of the actors, but supporting players, such as their friends Fleetwood and Chuck, were well crafted.

Additionally, Don Christensen, credited as art director, created impressive settings that ranged from the comfort of the Brady Kids’ neighborhood to faraway worlds, like ancient Greece.

Sure, it didn’t have a lesson from dad Mike Brady to conclude each episode and wrap things up nicely, but for a generation who never missed The Brady Bunch on Friday night, it was also nice to know that The Brady Kids were there for them on Saturday morning.

21 Comments

  • Though they had the same voices, the kids in The Brady Kids series were different from their live-action counterparts in many ways. In the absence of parents and a housekeeper, and with a treehouse instead of the very modern-looking house they inhabited in the prime time series, they had a great deal of autonomy for kids of the time. They didn’t seem to be answerable to anyone, rarely if ever went to school, and seemed to have an endless supply of free time. Since it had already been established in the series that they had a dog named Tiger, I was surprised as a child viewer to find that their dog had been rechristened as Mop Top. But what really perplexed child-viewer-me was the fact that the Brady Kids never changed their clothes. For example, in this very episode that was posted, they took on a painting project but didn’t bother to use smocks or painting garments. Whereas in the prime time series they wore different things and dressed appropriately for whatever the occasion. Of course, I now understand the reality of animation that when multiple groups are animating the same characters they have to be modeled identically, and that runs to clothing as well–but in those days I was a bit confused as to why their clothing never varied from episode to episode. Of course, child-me was finally forced to conclude that the animated series occupied a different universe than the live-action series. While it could be argued either way, because after all an animated series can include adventures undreamed of in a live action world, still my younger self would have much preferred an adaptation that hewed closer to its prime-time roots.

    Today, however, watching the series for the first time probably since it aired, I am impressed with the cleverness of the script, the voice work of the principals, and the overall look of the series. And I can easily accept the different universes of the two series. I wish now that I had viewed it with a less critical eye when I was younger. And it sure is a kick to see Superman and Lois Lane interacting with the Brady Kids!

  • Clark’s sliding entrance and subsequent fey pose at the 2:00 mark had me roaring. Some poor bored-out-their-skull animator was trying to squeeze some fun out of this tedious dreck.

  • If you wonder where the pandas came from, they were very popular animals in the early ’70s after Nixon opened relations with what was called Red China (which at the time I thought was something apart from Regular China, like West Virginia) and was gifted with Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing. Marlon was obviously named after Mr. Brando, then at the height of his “Last Tango”/”Godfather” (not exactly the stuff to inspire kiddie fare, but kids are aware of what the grownups talk about) notoriety.

    The “Brady” actors at least have the satisfaction that they aged better than their animated counterparts.

  • This article makes The Brady Kids sound like a lot more fun than it actually is. I loved it as a kid, but watching the episodes again when Paramount released them on DVD (with little fanfare, probably trying to slip multiple music rights and character rights issues past the copyright holders), they really don’t have much to recommend them. They’re also desperately in need of remastering, but there probably isn’t enough of a demand to make it worthwhile to do so.

  • One thing I find interesting is how the Brady Kids series is claimed to have ‘spun off’ the series “Mission:Magic”… but it’s more a case of cross-promotion. The episode with Miss Tickle aired on September 15, 1973 and Mission:Magic! premiered on September 8, 1973, so they were obviously both in production at the same time for the same September release season.
    In the BK episode with Miss Tickle, the MM framework is also already established (her magical items and methods are usable) and even the same animation is lifted (Tut-tut transforming at Miss Tickle’s ring, her flying poses, held speaking cels).
    Rick Springfield released his album with the appropriate music on July 15, 1974 and would already have written the songs in early 1973 prior to their being used in the series… so it’s clear that Mission:Magic! was independent of the concept of the Brady Kids’ show.

  • The author of this column seems to think that he can convince us that everything he writes about is wonderful. He fails every time.

    • Scott Shaw, you’re being kind of hard on Michael Lyons, especially considering you worked on such “wonderful” cartoon masterpieces as Snorks and Popeye and Son.

      • “The Brady Kids started life as part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, an anthology series of one-hour animated movies for kids.” I’m still grumbling about the other rather “despicable” anthology episode they did for that series.

    • And what was wrong with last week’s “Screwy Squirrel” post? I thought that subject was really wonderful.

    • Scott,
       
      I’m sorry you feel that way, and I wanted to respond to provide my perspective.
       
      As the site is “Cartoon Research,” my goal is to provide information on animation from the past, rekindle memories for some, and maybe introduce that animation to others.
       
      I look to provide both the successful and not-so-successful aspects of what I cover. I’m often writing from a more nostalgic point of view and, admittedly, a very positive one. That’s my style.
       
      I feel that, at times, there’s just too much negativity in the world, and I don’t want to be one more voice that adds to it. If that makes the topics I write about seem wonderful, well then, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve been successful every time.

      • Even substandard TV kiddie cartoon fare like The Brady Kids ought to be remembered, and while there’s a place for a more critical evaluation of these shows, I think a positive look back on them has its value as well. For starters, there are people who, for whatever reason, will have fond memories of these episodes; giving them a space to talk about what these shows mean to them helps give us a fuller picture of how they were received.

        Besides, it’s sometimes fun reading the lengths you’ll go through to keep a positive tone about some of the more inexplicable cartoons of the past. 😉

        • Thanks Jody! 😊

          • Jeez….. you’d think some people would be willing to read about the same “classic” cartoon series again and again, despite the fact that, for some of those, all the available information has been exhausted….. by looking at some of the “lesser” efforts, at least we might be able to glean some new knowledge about various animators, voice artists, production companies, etc. and maybe fill in some gaps in the bigger picture…. I’ll even read about some cartoons I hated as a kid, like LUNO or the like, and especially those very short lived attempts(HUNKY AND SPUNKY comes to mind), or one offs like SAM AND SIMEON…. all part if the rich tapestry we’re all kinda obsessed with…..

  • Sherwood Schwartz would admit he wasn’t happy with the show in an interview with the nostalgia-themed RetroCrush website many years later, stating “My conversation was to give a new platform that was more imaginative than real life situations, but I didn’t find it particularly good, so we stopped it after a year.”

    I’d also like to bring up how the show and its wacky animal characters would be referenced in “A Very Brady Sequel” when one of the characters starts hallucinating after eating tainted spaghetti. The animation in that scene was just a notch or two above the typical Filmation style!

  • For the music group segments, it seems like Filmation just reused old Archie footage with those Brady Kids laid over the top. Even as a kid I noticed that! Hate to say this, but Cousin Oliver would have been preferable to those pandas.

    Oh well, still better than The Partridge Family 2200 A.D.

    • “The Partridge Family 2200 A.D.”

      Now *that’s* a show worthy of an in-depth exploration!

      • “The Partridge Family 2200 A.D.”

        Now *that’s* a show worthy of an in-depth exploration!

        Jody, I agree with you. I like reading about “bad cartoons” even more than reading about “good ones”.

  • As mentioned by the poster above the pandas were timely considering US/China relations. The pandas were also named “Ping and Pong” after some diplomatic doings. In April 1971, nine players from the U.S. Table Tennis team took a historic trip to China. Their trip was the start of what became known as “ping pong diplomacy.

  • The Brady Kids “Mission Magic” Crossover episode explains that Miss Tickle and Marlon studied magic together. The Brady Kids episodes established that Marlon had been around for thousands of years and hinted that Miss Tickle could be just as old as Marlon. I like the fact that the writers were able to juggle lines for a huge cast and many supporting players. Outside of the Brady’s being substituted for The Archies during the music segments, recycled scenes were kept to a minimum or nonexistent in most of the episodes. Great article.

    • Thank you, Mark! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • “The Brady Kids… were able to embark on some very animated adventures.”

    VERY animated? Hardly! This was 1970’s Filmation!

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