ANIMATION SPIN
September 15, 2015 posted by

“Linus the Lionhearted” (and Sugar Bear) on Records

This week, two musical eras are represented on two albums based on Saturday Morning animated characters created to promote breakfast cereals (and specially-marked boxes).

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LINUS THE LIONHEARTED
LP Record Album (Original TV Cast)
General Foods Corporation / Premier Albums (Peter Pan Records) L-10 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1964. Producer: Ed Graham. Special Musical Arrangements: Johnny Mann. Running Time: 32 minutes.
Voices: Sheldon Leonard (Linus); Carl Reiner (Billy Bird); Ruth Buzzi (Granny Witch); Jesse White (Claudius Crow); Gerry Matthews (Sugar Bear); Bob McFadden (Lovable Truly, Rory Raccoon, So-Hi).
Songs: “Roar For Linus (Opening Theme)”, “We’re Glad We’re What We Are”, “So-Hi Say”, “Nothing’s More Fun Than Eatin’ Corn”, “Hurrah Rah Sugar Bear”, “When Lovable Truly Brings the Mail”, “Billy Bird”, “Singin’ Like a King”, “Just One Lion”, “Linus and His Friends Must Go (End Title)”.

Album back cover (click to enlarge)

Album back cover (click to enlarge)

Linus the Lionhearted was a Saturday morning cartoon show that featured characters developed for various Post cereals. The short cartoons starred Linus himself (Post Crispy Critters), Lovable Truly (Alpha-Bits), So-Hi (Rice Krinkles) and the character that outlasted them all, Sugar Bear (Sugar Crisp/Super Sugar Crisp/Golden Crisp).

These cereals had varied histories as to other mascots and product configurations—the illustrated history colorfully chronicled in Tim Hollis’ superb book, Part of a Complete Breakfast: Cereal Characters of the Baby Boom Era. In 1964, Hanna-Barbera was unveiling series developed with Ideal Toys (Magilla Gorilla, Peter Potamus) for ABC. The same year, CBS presented Linus the Lionhearted, which did the same with cereal characters.

And thus began the kerfuffle. Magilla and Peter did not raise the hackles that other toy-based shows did, such as Pantomime Pictures’ Hot Wheels (which was taken off the air) or Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (which was criticized but protected by being syndicated). Linus lasted quite a while considering the objections that arose because the characters in the show were also in the commercials.

Debates of this kind continue to go back and forth as long as there is commercial entertainment aimed at kids. Sometimes the efforts go too far over the line in the perception of some, and other times they don’t seem to bother anyone. After Linus the Lionhearted left network TV in 1969, it was sporadically syndicated but is not likely to be an imminent home video release (especially due of sensitivities that the So-Hi segments might inspire).

To boomers, the show is fondly remembered for its Jay Ward-ish layered scripts, stylized design and excellent voice cast, headed by Sheldon Leonard as Linus and Carl Reiner as his sidekick, Billy Bird. The vocal presence of Leonard and Reiner might have a connection between their partnership in The Dick Van Dyke Show, and General Foods’ sponsorship of another Leonard TV hit, The Andy Griffith Show. (Reiner also voiced several animated cartoons, including the Anatole segment of the 1966 Gene Deitch feature, Alice of Wonderland in Paris and Brutus and Brownie pilot for Ed Graham)

Ruth Buzzi, only a few years before Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, voices Granny Goodwitch, the wonderful Jesse White is Cornelius Crow and supreme New York voice actor Bob McFadden handles Lovable Truly and several other characters. Gerry Matthews, the voice of Sugar Bear, who was also a New York talent at the time, now runs The Museum of Un-Natural History in Walla Walla, Washington.

The record album was offered as a premium from Post cereals. The theme and end title music comes from the soundtrack, but all the other dialogue and music was created for the record. Despite the cost-saving measure of adding lyrics to license-free public domain songs, the orchestrations, choral work and overall production values are impressive.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Open / “Just One Lion” / Closing

On the TV show, both the open and close were edited, so it’s nice to hear the complete versions. The opening theme, of course, comes at the beginning of the album, while “Just One Lion” is the finale featuring the entire cast. The odd thing is that song, in which Linus and the gang head happily off to a joyful feast, is followed directly on the LP by the sorrowful closing theme from the series. Those who remember the show will recall it as a teary, sorrowful farewell to the characters until next week’s show.


SugarBearsLPFront-600

PRESENTING THE SUGAR BEARS
Big Tree Records (Ampex) BTS-2009 (33 1/3 RPM LP Stereo)

Released in 1972. A Product of National Musitime, Inc. Producer: Jimmy Bowen for Amos Productions. Arrangements: Pete Carpenter, Glen A. Hardin. Running Time: 29 minutes.

Singing Voices: Michael McGinnis, Baker Knight, Mike Settle, Mitch Murray (Sugar Bear); Kim Carnes (Honey Bear).
Songs: “Happiness Train”, “All of My Life”, “Right On”, “Feather Balloon”, “Kinda Friendly Things”, “You’ve Been a Long Time Coming”, “You Are the One”, “The Two of Us Together”, “It’s a Good Day,” “Someone Like You”, “Anyone But You”.

The businesses of animation, television, advertising and children’s music had changed in the five years between the release of the Linus the Lionhearted LP and this bubblegum pop collection of original songs “performed” by Sugar Bear and Honey Bear.

The back cover (click to enlarge)

The back cover (click to enlarge)

By 1969, the appeal of The Beatles, The Monkees and especially The Archies to kids brought a pop music attitude to children’s records. The traditional children’s record approach of the 1964 Linus album is nowhere to be found on Presenting The Sugar Bears. Also not on the record itself are the names of the characters or any bridging dialogue. The eleven songs are presented just as they are, in a very straightforward, non-‘kiddie’ way.

The songs are excellent representations of the genre, pure teenybopper tunes with “hooks” galore. No songwriting credits are given, but the singing, arranging and production talents are top drawer. Several studio singers are given credit for singing on the Sugar Bear tracks (something Ron Dante was not granted at the time), and most notably, future music superstar Kim Carnes (“Bette Davis Eyes”) sings for Honey Bear without the trademark rasp she adopted for her stellar pop career.

Jimmy Bowen, who produced Carnes’ first solo album, Rest of Me, also produces here. Bowen, who had already produced records for the artists on Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label, became a fixture in country music with such stars as Reba McIntire, Garth Brooks and Glen Campbell. “Amos Productions”, listed on the Sugar Bears LP, was his (and Carnes’) first record label.

The album was sold in retail stores and was either not a big success, or too many were manufactured in anticipation of hit status. Dozens of copies remained on the shelves of stores such as Lionel Playworld for years, as well as in discontinued record bins.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Presenting The Sugar Bears”

Get ready to groove, though it’s odd that there’s no song that even suggests Sugar Bear’s “Can’t Get Enough of my Sugar Crisp”. Here’s the whole album:

30 Comments

  • Wow! Thanks Greg. I’ve been looking for a way to transfer my LP and now I don’t have to. This is some nicely produced bubblegum music, almost too good for a kid’s premium. I am curious about Kim Carne’s voice, though as her trademark rasp isn’t evident here. Did she have vocal surgery that produced that rasp, or was it put upon for “Betty Davis Eyes?”

    • I don’t know how Kim Carnes did it, but I have heard that Pat Benatar had a voice like Julie Andrews but deliberately strained it for rock singing.

  • The Sugar Bears sound VERY authentic.

    Wasn’t there an endless extension of the “Linus” closing theme?

    • Not sure of an “extended version” but it plays in my head constantly.

    • A point, perhaps, taken rather well, judging by the reviews for this ablum at RateYourMusic.com, which gives Presenting The Sugar Bears a 3.25-star rating out of a possible five based on four reviews to date.

      Critic “RDTEN1” (3.5 stars) notes:

      While in retrospect she’s probably not all that thrilled with her participation, Carnes served as the voice for ‘Honey Bear’, while fellow songwriter and ex-First Edition member Mike Settle provided the voice of namesake ‘Sugar Bear’. Produced by Jimmy Bowen, on the surface this would seem to be nothing short of an aural disaster, but the fact of the matter is that the album’s surprisingly good. Boasting material from Carnes, Settle and Baker Knight (the guy who wrote Ricky Nelson’s ‘Lonely Town’ and ‘The Wonder of You’ for Elvis Presley), songs such as ‘Happiness Train’, ‘All of My Life’ and ‘Kinda Friendly Things’ were full of uplifting lyrics, catchy melodies and surprisingly enthusiastic performances. Sure, its more ‘product’ than ‘art’, but I’d have to say it’s easily one of the top-5 bubblegum albums.

      Who also makes note that there were three 45 singles released by The Sugar Bears, all on the Big Tree label:

      *”You Are The One” b/w “Someone Like You”
      *”Happiness Train” b/w “Right On”
      *”Some Kind of a Summer” b/w “Put Some Love Into It” [not on the original album]

      “Kupa99” (five stars) offers this take:

      Good Lord, you don’t run across this album very often. I was lucky to find it in a crate at a record show in Michigan. It’s a bubblegum oddity that can be compared to THE POPPY FAMILY or maybe the second BRADY BUNCH album. Young Kim Carnes started off as a bikini hottie in early 60’s beach movies but after hooking up with her musical boyfiend, they worked as studio musicians and commercial singers. Enter cereal company Post, who tried to recreate the Archies sensation after the Archies released their final album, THIS IS LOVE. Post introduced The Sugar Bears on the back of their Super Sugar Crisps with a cut-out cardboard spinaroonie record. 2 tracks pre-lp were released. With the, what they thought, onslaught of children begging for more songs, Kim Carnes and staff signed on. Big Tree records released this gem and probably thought it would outsell LOBO.

      The album is a bit narrowminded and boring at times, but when it hits a groovy groove, it rocks better than The Osmonds! A+

      Somewhat indifferent was this 3-star review from “futileexercise”:

      Pretty good, for what it is — an offshoot of a cereal box cartoon (remember animated The Archies had just had a #1 single). Album features one of the first recorded output from Kim Carnes and her husband, Dave Ellingson.

      Finally, this 4-star review from “gary maher”:

      Solid sugary bubblegum pop featuring original compositions and vocals from Mike Settle (of the New Christy Minstrels and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition) and Kim Carnes. As good as any Cowsills record and in the same vein.

      Meanwhile, it’d be interesting to find out how this album (or its singles, for that matter) made it on the Billboard and Cashbox charts.

  • Easily one of my top 5 (made-for) tv toon faves!! I adored it!

  • Seeing the Linus cartoon as a kid, i always thought that “Lovable Truly” was an odd choice of name for the Alpha-Bits postman. Though even then I knew that “Rory Raccoon” was a riff on Rory Calhoun (star of the Western series “The Texan”). Odder still, Sugar Crisp commercials of the early ’70s had a villain called The Blob, though there was nothing fat or blobby about him (he was modeled on James Cagney) – the most inapt name for a cartoon baddie since the Hooded Claw.

  • Magilla Gorilla and Peter Potamus were made for syndication in 1964, They made their way to the ABC line-up in 1966.

    • Ah! I wonder if the mention of Ideal Toys was removed when they went to ABC? Thanks for the clarification!

    • Magilla still carried the Ideal Toys sponsorship in its 1966 season on ABC — the shorter network version of the end titles (which includes him sitting in the pet store window still on the TV camera seat) with the sponsor tag was posted to YouTube a while ago.

  • Greg:
    Thanks so much for this post! This group of characters is hardly ever recognized,but it’s chock full of great vocal talent! Sheldon Leonard was delightful,Stemming from his work on the Jack Benny program as the race track tout (hey Bud,c’mere a minute) and his two appearances as Dodsworth,the lazy,oversuffed feline from Warner Bros.I’m also a Ruth Buzzi fan She was great as Granny Goodwitch!And I definitely think Carl Reiner should have done more toon voice work.He proved himself doing Billie Bird,Dinny Kangaroo and my favorite character on the show,Sacha Grouse! It’s too bad these creatures,and the two human toons(lovable Truly and SoHi) weren’t syndicated,being too associated with various Post cereals,though I honestly think they could have done just fine on their own,(Except Asian American groups who probably would take offense at the SoHi character.Oh well,thakns anyway,Greg,for great memories!

    • I also saw Linus, and this was in the sixties, and hardly really noticved the album tohugh I[ve heard of it…I like tlaking like SHledon leonard/Linus..Carl Reiner, Leonard’s buddy in TV producing, was show producer Ed Graham Jr.’s own personal Mel Blanc on the title segments, doling (except our lion-heartted star) most of the title segment characters while others like Ruth Buzzii, Bob McFadden, etc.handled the others.

    • Sheldon Leonard is also heard in a Foghorn Leghorn from 1952 (copyright date), “Sock a Doodle-Doo”, as the banty rooster who throws punches when hearing a bell faster than Curly Howard when hearing “Pop! Goes the Weasel”, say, in some of the early 3 Stooges shorts.

  • I’m trying to remember just why the opening and closing themes were edited. Would it be because you can see visual references to Post cereals? There is certainly no mention of the products in the soundtrack itself, and when I heard the unedited versions, I recalled hearing it that way when I watched the program as a kid, but I just can’t recall the visuals that went with the music. Great, great stuff, here, though. I also used to like this program, but I remember seeing this before I ever saw PEER POTIMUS.

  • …Magilla and Peter did not raise the hackles that other toy-based shows did, such as Pantomime Pictures’ Hot Wheels (which was taken off the air) or Filmation’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (which was criticized but protected by being syndicated). Linus lasted quite a while considering the objections that arose because the characters in the show were also in the commercials.

    In 1972, the Television Code of the National Association of Broadcasters was amended to ban host advertising, which was seem to be confusing viewers–especially on locally-produced hosted children’s shows as were known to be rather blatant for such on-air plugging, in its turn unleashing “pester power” upon the parents (or expected to, at any rate, especially with phrases such as “ask your mother to buy you …” also falling under the rule).

    And would be formally codified as law by the Federal Communications Commission’s Host Advertising Rule in 1974.

    By 1983, the Television Code’s having been struck down as anti-competitive (particularly from the standpoint of calculating advertising rates) would be enough to unleash “program-length commercials” in the He-Man vein, many of which were criticised as much for the excesses of violence as for the blurring of entertainment and advertising.

    • Thanks, It’s So. I never understood why keeping Flintstone product commercials off Flintstone shows, yet having them in other shows, made kids any less eager to want the things they were selling. Same with Bugs Bunny, Pink Panther, etc. It’s just a lot of back and forth stuff. The main issue really should be whether the shows themselves were any good.

      According to Jim Henson’s biography, there was pressure when Kermit was appearing on Sesame Street as well as on commercial specials like “Frog Prince”, so Kermit’s appearances were limited and eventually rare.

    • Going off-topic a bit, Japan still observes the ancient practice of having having commercials plugging a show while airing on said show! Nobody there apparently saw a reason to object to that.

  • The characters had been appearing in Post cereal commercials for quite some time before this show first aired, so there was quite a bit of familiarity and name recognition for kids watching. Linus had been hawking Crispy Critters (“the one and only cereal that comes in shapes of animals”) and Sugar Bear had been promoting Sugar Crisp well in advance, so these characters were fairly well-known to their original audience. How early a running start did they have? I’d have to research that one, but they seemed like old friends by the time the show premiered.

    Sheldon Leonard really “owned” the character of Linus…his vocals were very convincing and his voice was just right for the part. The others likewise seemed to be having a field day with the voices. (This was before the name “Linus” had become popularly associated with the Peanuts character, whose animation debut was still to come, although the Peanuts comic strip had been in newspapers for years by this time.)

    The show was also somewhat topical in its first run, as there was a famous Thanksgiving episode that aired shortly before Linus the Lionhearted debuted as a balloon in the Macy Parade (and this balloon lingered in the parade for many years, long after the character had been forgotten). The interstitials were even more fun than the cartoons themselves, as they often featured Linus and Sugar Bear braving some peril or other. The short cartoons embedded within the shows were very brief but delightful. (As far as racial stereotypes go, as I remember So-Hi was a pretty likable and upbeat little guy–couldn’t these types of things ever be looked on as a gentle nod to multi-culturalism?)

    I listened to this record once with some friends who owned a copy. I remember being a bit disappointed that the songs were mostly ripoffs of old standards, but I enjoyed the voice work and it was a fun listen. This was a record I wanted but never got.

    I have yet to read a critical review that was positive. Most criticism seemed to be aimed at the fact that the characters were derived from cereal commercials and that pushing Post cereals seemed to be the show’s main objective. But despite the blatant commercialism, the cartoons were well-crafted and they deserve to be remembered more than they are today.

    • Linus actually dates back to the late 1950s — but not for Crispy Critters. Post originally tried him out as a pitchman on their Heart of Oats cereal. It failed, and then he was trotted out again in 1962 for the cereal that lasted a little longer, helped out this time by General Food’s ad dollars to sponsor their own Saturday morning cartoon show.

      Here’s Mike Kazaleh’s post from a year ago on Linus’ evolution (including a brief period where he was being animated at Warner Bros.) — https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/hes-a-work-of-art-with-a-sponsors-heart-linus-the-lionherted/ — It would have been interesting if General Foods had paid WB to animate the entire series, instead of just the first series of Crispy Critter commercials.

    • (As far as racial stereotypes go, as I remember So-Hi was a pretty likable and upbeat little guy–couldn’t these types of things ever be looked on as a gentle nod to multi-culturalism?)

      That’s an interesting point. So-Hi didn’t look/sound too bad to me, of course his segments on the show had him telling tales rather than to be a part of the cartoon himself outside the role of a narrator.

  • I remember watching “Linus the Lionhearted” out here back when it ran on CBS.

    Curiously, the products with which the various characters were associated were distributed quite unevenly. Of course, you cold find “Crispy Critters” and “Alpha-Bits” everywhere. But in the small town where I lived, you could not find “Rice Krinkles” (which eventually evolved into the “Pebbles” line of cereals), nor the product advertised by Rory Raccoon.

    Another book that might prove interesting, and might actually complement the book cited above is “Cerealizing America” by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford (Faber and Faber, 1995). This takes a less nostalgic tone than the book cited above appears to take.

    Jimmy Bowen (producer of “The Sugar Bears”) started out in a Texas rockabilly group, the Rhythm Orchids. They produced four sides for a local label, Triple D records. These sides were sold to Roulette Records,where two of them–Bowen’s “I’m Stickin’ With You” and Buddy Knox’s “Party Doll”–became big hits. Knox’s records–including his subsequet releases–were bigger hits than Bowen’s, and so Knox’s career as a recording artist was longer, going into the late 1950’s. Bowen went to “the other side of the glass”., and you know the rest of the story.

    • I remember watching “Linus the Lionhearted” out here back when it ran on CBS.

      Curiously, the products with which the various characters were associated were distributed quite unevenly. Of course, you cold find “Crispy Critters” and “Alpha-Bits” everywhere. But in the small town where I lived, you could not find “Rice Krinkles” (which eventually evolved into the “Pebbles” line of cereals), nor the product advertised by Rory Raccoon.

      Must be something to have been a kid back then, see something you want on TV, and not being able to get it locally even if you kept asking the shop keep for it. It sounds like it was very common outside of those large/medium-sized areas for people to get left out of stuff simply out of lack of interest or resources. I’m sure my town probably had Rice Krinkles otherwise.

      Another book that might prove interesting, and might actually complement the book cited above is “Cerealizing America” by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford (Faber and Faber, 1995). This takes a less nostalgic tone than the book cited above appears to take.

      I suppose it’s dead serious, and I might actually learn something out of marketing this sugary stuff!

      immy Bowen (producer of “The Sugar Bears”) started out in a Texas rockabilly group, the Rhythm Orchids. They produced four sides for a local label, Triple D records. These sides were sold to Roulette Records,where two of them–Bowen’s “I’m Stickin’ With You” and Buddy Knox’s “Party Doll”–became big hits. Knox’s records–including his subsequet releases–were bigger hits than Bowen’s, and so Knox’s career as a recording artist was longer, going into the late 1950′s. Bowen went to “the other side of the glass”., and you know the rest of the story.

      Thanks for the tidbit!

  • Frederick,

    I agree that the criticism was only about the cereal characters being on a cartoon series was rather than how good the series itself was. Whether the concept of using product characters as show stars was a proper thing or not, there are certainly lots of things on TV that do not star product characters but are far from high quality.

    After a few years, the Macy’s hosts started calling the Linus balloon by a generic name — something like “Leo the Lion”, instead of his actual character name. Does that mean that in a few decades there’ll be balloons that TV hosts will call “Mister Sponge” and “Spiky Hair Boy”?

    • Love to see if that happens Greg! I suppose it was easier for Linus when he faded to obscurity by the 80’s.

    • There’s a good chance those two cartoons will still be in production a few decades from now.

    • Ironic to think how true that is Joe.

  • “You Are The One” by the Sugar Bears made #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in Spring 1972.

  • The Sugar Bears records might have been bigger “chart hits” had there not been millions of those cardboard singles in circulation…Post may have shot themselves in the foot there. Anyone know which voices Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, and also John Byner, did on the Linus show? The original credits also included unbilled celebrity guest voices, listed only as “Bashful Big-Shots.” What I thought was a hoot was that Thurl Ravenscroft, Kellogg’s “Tony the Tiger,” was clearly audible in the theme song as a member of Johnny Mann’s chorus on this Post-sponsored show!

  • I used to have this Lp! It was bought thru a Cereal offer that was on a card that was inside marked boxes! For $1,50 S+H You could’ve owned this soon to be Collector’s Album!

  • Im looking for a Linus the lionhearted episode where Sugar bear,the grouse,and another animal were rock band to where the episode ends with them in a boat playing the main song into the sunset

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