May 10, 2014 posted by

He’s a Work of Art with a Sponsor’s Heart: “Linus the Lionhearted”


He’s the host who shills for Post! I’m talkin’ about Linus the Lionhearted, the product spokesman (spokeslion?) who became a cartoon series star before vanishing off the airwaves. Part of his appeal was the vocal styling of veteran actor Sheldon Leonard. Leonard by this time was a successful producer of live-action shows (many of them sponsored by Post. Coincidence? Maybe not…) and one of the animators on the Linus show told me that his services as a voice actor didn’t come cheap. The show itself was a real mixed bag. Some of the cartoons were humorous and entertaining while others simply left you scratching your head wondering what the heck just happened. Linus’ transition from product mascot to TV star was engineered by Ed Graham, the advertising man who became a cartoon producer. Let’s follow Linus as he heads down that crunchy road to success…

Heart of Oats

What? This is Linus the Lionhearted? Selling another cereal? You mean to say we got a second hand lion when they made Crispy Critters? This is a pretty strange commercial, but then again, most of the old Post ads were more strange than funny. Sheldon Leonard speaks even at this early date, and Martin B. Taras animates.

Crispy Critters

Some of the earliest Crispy Critters spots were produced at Warner Bros. With General Foods as the sponsor of the Bugs Bunny Show, this shouldn’t be surprising. Phil Monroe is the director. There are two scenes where the animation switches from Gerry Chiniquy to Virgil Ross in mid-scene, which leads me to believe that they went through several client revisions before this spot aired. What a bizarre campaign! Speak the name of the product and get trampled on by stampeding animals! The slogan should’ve been “Ask for it by name!”

Lolita La Cheetah

Another WB one. Ken Harris and Virgil Ross animate.

Treat Packs

The little bird here is voiced by Charles Smith, the future Super Bwoing on the Super 6 show. Tom Ray animates. By now they were using the new Linus design by George Cannata Jr.

Show Opening

Here’s the TV show opening with the sponsor’s plugs replaced. See a parade of Post people pushing pertinent products. Some people objected to the show claiming it was a half hour commercial. The eighties hadn’t happened yet…

Notice how the theme song momentarily becomes “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” partway through. Show regulars Carl Reiner, Bob McFadden, and Gerry Mathews can be heard here. From Ed Graham productions.

Orange Moose

The end is nigh. Linus is now the second banana in his own cereal. Mind you, bananas in your cereal can be nice. So can strawberries.


  • Mike: I really like all the stuff you have here,especially the extremely rare Heart of Oats spot! This is just my opinion,but I thought it was very appealing.It would certainly compel me to make a purchase,whether Heart of Oats or Crispy Critters! Sheldon Leonard does his usual brilliant job! As a matter of fact,I’m surprised that people like Carl Reiner,for instance, didn’t do more cartoon voices.Carl certainly had the talent for it,doing Billie Bird,Dinny Kangaroo and (my favorite) Sacha Grouse!

  • Linus’ show was actually aired on a local Boston UHF station for awhile in the late seventies (minus the Post cereal references removed, of course)

    • Apparently there were cases of the show airing on stations in the 70’s that way (wonder who was syndicating it). Today I suppose the series is in the ownership of Post Holdings, Inc., though I suppose they have no intention of digging that one out of the back of the warehouse anytime soon. Of course I said this before but a freebie DVD of some Linus the Lionhearted episodes stuck into boxes of Golden Crisp wouldn’t be a bad idea for the show’s 50th anniversary if they wanted to push Sugar Bear being on that show.

    • Chris, there is at least one dvd of the shows out there.

    • I’m sure there would be, but mind you these will be fan-circulated copies.

    • The show did air here in Southern Calif. in 1975 with only at least ONCE case of the (1965-66 season) end credits but NO open titles! BTW General Foods, of course, were the ONLY ones mentioned in the copyright with NO copyright date, and the same for the end title.

  • Interestingly, Leonard did voices for three Warner cartoons all directed by Robert McKimpson. Two of which featured a big fat lazy cat named Dodsworth. The other cartoon was a Foghorn cartoon which I forget the name, where Leonard voiced a boxing crazed rooster named Kid Bantey.

    • The cartoon you are thinking of, Nic, is “Sock-a-Doodle-do” from 1952.

  • Cap’n Crunch was my version of liking the advertising (how could anyone not like Jay Ward?) but not being able to stand the cereal.

    What was the line from “My Friend Irma”, about the cereal that tasted great with strawberries & cream? “ANYTHING tastes great with strawberries and cream!”

  • I can’t help thinking that was Thurl Ravenscroft (KELLOGG’S Tony the Tiger) as the bass who sings “He’s the sweetest!” in the Linus opening (ironic, no?) But who did that great Marilyn voice as “Lolita La Cheetah”? A number of the Linus cartoons had Corny Cole as designer; his style always distinctive. Except for Sugar Bear and now-politically-incorrect So-Hi, I can’t imagine any commercial conflicts now with broadcasting the Linus cartoons as both the characters and the cereals they represented are mostly long defunct. Before “Lovable Truly,” there was another, less “lovable” but very funny version of the Alpha-Bits postman voiced by insult comic Jack E. Leonard.

  • i, for one, loved the tv show. I adored alllllllll of its characters. How could anyone not luv the Bing/Dean-ness of Sugar Bear?
    Moral of Story, Honorable Children Friends??

  • Do recall that the Linus balloon somewhat mysteriously lingered on in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, bereft of any reference to cereal or cartoon show.

    The little Oriental boy So-Hi vanished along with his cereal, Rice Krinkles — maybe even before opposition to racial stereotypes reached critical mass. The originally boyish Alpha-Bits mailman was made more goofy, and finally became a fast-talking Jack E. Leonard type. Sugar Bear kept going forever, first as a laid-back moocher effortlessly foiling Granny Goodwitch’s attempts to keep him from her breakfast table, and then as a laid-back hero against the Cagneyesque Blob (Granny Goodwitch was always there to warn what the Blob and his mob were up to ). Don’t remember the raccoon at all.

    I seem to remember that Crispy Critters introduced a Pushmi-Pullyu shaped piece to tie into the Doctor Dolittle movie, which means it lasted until 1967 at least.

    • Somewhen between 7/25/1974 and 7/25/1975, when I was 6 yo, I tried RICE KRINKLES. So-Hi was NOT on the box.
      I remember hating RK intensely, though: The cereal sported a HYPERCHEAP vanilla aroma/flavor. I never ate that crap again,
      I t’lells ya. THAT SMELL….remains, FOUR DECADES LATER, imprinted in my memories/mind.

    • A theatre in Norwalk, California, in one of the oldest shopping centers (early 50s and NOTHING like a mall or anything, with the big marquee-sign), proudly sells COOKIES called CRISPY CRITTERS! I noted the old the cereal by post!

  • Nic:
    The Foggy toon was Sock A Doodle Doo (1952)

    • Thanks. I actually remembered the title a few hour after I posted and I didn’t needed to look it up.

  • Did the Jack E. Leonard version of the Postman ever get any episodes on the Linus show? He was in a lot of animated commercials that aired on the Bugs Bunny show. I always thought that Lovable Truly sounded like Huckleberry Hound with a lobotomy! The funniest cartoons on the show were the early Sugar Bears when Granny Goodwitch was insane. She would cackle her evil cackles for seconds on end, and didn’t like Sugar Bear even when he was rescuing her from evil magicians like Mervin. Thanks Mike, for “POST”ing this Dee-Licious chapter of Cartoon Resoich.

    • I don’t think the Jack E. Leonard postman getting a full cartoon, although it might’ve been funny if he had. But there were two different Lovable Truly-s. The first one was the quiet one who started sentences by saying “Dear” as if he were writing a letter. Somebody at Post must’ve thought he wasn’t manly enough, because the second one had a bigger nose, underbite, and shoulders. He also had a deeper voice and a much more aggressive personality. Bob McFadden did both voices. Can you imagine what the meeting must’ve been like when they were discussing ways to make Loveable more macho and assertive?

    • Hey Mike,
      Did Bob McFadden also do the voice of Rory Raccoon? Who did C. Claudius Crow’s voice? It sounds a lot like Jesse White to me, but he doesn’t get any screen credit on “Linus” that I’ve ever seen.

    • Yes, McFadden did also did Roary’s voice, and also Benjy Wolf and Richard Harry Nearly. That really is Jesse White as Claudius Crow. He does get credit on the soundtrack LP.

  • Wait a minute!!! The title doesn’t have an “a” in “Lionhearted”!

    • Fixed!

  • I think Ruth Buzzi of “Laugh-In” was the voice of Granny Goodwitch; also recall reading that Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara did some incidental characters. Almost forgot about the music on the show; some of it I believe was original, while some sounded like it was lifted from old newsreels (like the march-type music that introduced Sugar Bear’s cartoons.) Possibly Gordon Zahler’s tracking library, anybody know for sure?

  • I remember also watching Linus on UHF television in the late 1970’s. Even though it was minus the Post sponsorship mentions on-screen, it was still sponsored by Post.
    The syndication precess for that show (as well as the Jay Ward programs) is called “TIME BANK”. This means that the TV stations got the programs for free in exchange for giving up 3 minutes of commercial time for the syndicator’s products. The difference between “TIME BANK” and “BARTER” syndication is that with Time Bank the station does not run the commercials inside of the program being syndicated. Instead, the TV station has a certain time frame in which to run the commercials in other programs.
    This satisfies the FCC’s new regulation (caused by the Linus The Lionhearted Show) that characters from a Children’s Program can not appear in any commercials with-in that show. The FCC and parents guilds felt this would confuse children between what is a program and what is a commercial.
    So Post could sponsor the Linus program with Sugar Bear commercials, they just had to run the Sugar Bear commercials in another program.

    • The really standout episode of ‘Linus the Lionhearted’ had to be “The Birds”, wherein Billy Bird, Mockingbird, and Grouse formed a rock band that did a song called ‘Do The Coconut’ — which was a really, really great song. It was said the folks actually singing and playing the song were Gary Lewis and the Playboys, who did lots of music — including numerous theme songs — for cartoons back in the 60s and 70s. However, for some reason that song mysteriously vanished from all knowledge, and it didn’t even appear on the ‘Linus’ LP that you could get by sending in various Post box-tops plus a small fee. Any comments on that?

    • The really standout episode of ‘Linus the Lionhearted’ had to be “The Birds”, wherein Billy Bird, Mockingbird, and Grouse formed a rock band that did a song called ‘Do The Coconut’ — which was a really, really great song. It was said the folks actually singing and playing the song were Gary Lewis and the Playboys, who did lots of music — including numerous theme songs — for cartoons back in the 60s and 70s. However, for some reason that song mysteriously vanished from all knowledge, and it didn’t even appear on the ‘Linus’ LP that you could get by sending in various Post box-tops plus a small fee. Any comments on that?

  • In Cerealizing America, Gene Schinto said that Sheldon Leonard did the voice of Linus for almost nothing-“the cost of a new suit”. Leonard knew who was sponsoring all his shows… Linus got great ratings the first season then in the second year it got crushed by the Beatles cartoons on ABC. Linus was syndicated in the mid to late 70’s-I think they left the Sugar Bear cartoons out of that package.

  • I remember the commercials vividly, but not the TV show.

  • From the 1960’s and up to the early 1980’s and again in 1991 there was a Linus the Lionhearted character balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    • They outta bring Linus back this year, but fat chance on that.

  • Ed Graham produced a (pilot?) short cartoon featuring characters called Brutus and Brownie in “Funny Is Funny,” with Carl Reiner and (I think) Sheldon Leonard doing the voices. Universal released it theatrically; they may or may not have been looking for something more “hip” than Walter Lantz’s cartoons, but in any event it went nowhere. I remember seeing it in a 16mm rental “cartoon parade” decades ago. Remember Graham’s unusual logo?

    Productions Inc.

    • Correcting myself (I hope), I think the voices in Ed Graham’s “Brutus and Brownie” cartoon were Carl Reiner and Ed Graham himself.

    • It was a neat logo, though it was Carl Reiner and Ed Graham, Jr. who supplied the voices of Brutus and Brownie in this film.

      Another Ed Graham production that Universal released was “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”…

    • Jeff, that logo was a NEAT one..even on thopse theatrical cartoons! I saw that show bakc in its initial run..and am reading the LATEST article on it..

  • Linus the lion-hearted was my favorite cartoon show . Some favorite memories are ; the coconut, mockingbird and the gross, sugar bear singing honey suckle rose, and rice krinkles’ big dumb lumox. I have very fond memories of them. Wish they could bring them back. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

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