Animation Cel-ebration
August 18, 2023 posted by Michael Lyons

March of the Penguin: The 60th Anniversary of “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales”

“C’mon and see, see, see Tennessee Tuxedo! See, see, see Tenessee Tuxedo! He will be parachuting for your pleasure, sailing seas in search of treasure, anything so he can measure up to men! That’s Tennessee Tuxedo!”

So began the catchy opening theme to Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. A few bars of that song today are like a portal back in time for generations who grew up with the show on Saturday mornings, in reruns, or both.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales was produced by the Total TeleVision productions animation studio, which also brought audiences the shows King Leonardo and His Short Subjects and Underdog.

Set at the Megapolis Zoo, Tennessee Tuxedo, and His Tales followed the exploits of two of the zoo’s residents, Tennessee, a penguin, and his best friend Chumley, a Walrus, along with their pet dog, Howler, and friends Yakkety Yak, and Baldy, the eagle.

Always the schemer, Tennessee often finds a way for him and Chumley to escape the zoo, to the dismay of the zoo’s curator, Stanley Livingstone. After escaping, Tennessee and Chumley would seek answers from their friend, Mr. Whoopee, a “Man with All the Answers.”

Thanks to Mr. Whoopee, Tennessee and Chumley would discover more about various topics, from the power of electricity to how a camera works. In turn, kids at home would learn this, as well.

Another segment of the show was The World of Commander McBragg, about a retired British Commander who would regale his friend, and the audience at home, with an outlandish and exaggerated story about one of his adventures.

When Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales made their way to syndication, cartoons that were part of King Leonardo and his Short Subjects, were incorporated. Tennessee would also be a part of a syndicated package of Underdog.

Like their other series, Total TeleVision employed a talented cast of voice actors to bring the characters to life. They included none other than Don Adams, two years before starring in his hit series Get Smart, as Tennessee, veteran voice actors Bradley Bolke as Chumley, Mort Marshall as Stanley Livingstone and Kenny Delmar as the narrator, and Commander McBragg. Another star of a future hit sitcom, Larry Storch, who would star in F-Troop, voiced Mr. Whoopee.

Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales was one of a number of popular animated shows produced by Total TeleVision in the 1960s. The studio’s output has faded somewhat through the years, as noted by author Mark Arnold, who, thankfully, chronicled the studio in his book, Created and Produced by Total TeleVision productions. In the book, Arnold writes:

“The Total TeleVision productions (yes, it’s large ‘V,’ small ‘p’) story is one that is not well known. For various reasons, it has been confused over the years with Jay Ward Productions, yet their best-known creations of Tennessee Tuxedo and Underdog are as fondly remembered as any other animated star.”

Total TeleVision was founded in 1959 by advertising agency executives Buck Biggers, Chester “Chet” Stover, Joe Harris, and Treadwell D. Covington, and the shows that they created had quite an impact on pop culture.

Arnold’s other book, The TTV Scrapbook, which he co-authored with Victoria Biggers (daughter of Total TeleVision’s co-founder Buck Biggers), reflects just how popular Tennessee Tuxedo and the studio’s other outings were beyond the series themselves, by showcasing comic book art from the shows.

Debuting on CBS on September 28, 1963, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales would run on the network until 1966. After years in syndication, the show did appear on home video and new Tennessee Tuxedo shorts were produced by Chuck Gammage Animation and Cartoon Lagoon Studios for YouTube in 2014.

However, it’s those original episodes of Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales that so many remember fondly, with creative humor and animation, that would never disappoint. Or, as the title character himself would promise before embarking on a new adventure, “Tennessee Tuxedo will not fail!”


  • “Duh, here’s a riddle. What is it that is even classier than a jersey jacket?”
    “Hmm. What IS it that is even classier than a jersey jacket?”
    “I know! A Tennessee Tuxedo!”

    This brings back a lot of memories. I loved penguins (well, who doesn’t, as far as that goes? Are there any penguin haters out there?) and I loved the zoo, so naturally I loved Tennessee Tuxedo. I even had the Tennessee Tuxedo Soaky bottle toy pictured here with its three-scoop ice cream cone! There seemed to be no end to Tennessee’s ambition. “See this ad, Chumley? ‘House painters wanted.’ That’s what we’ll do, Chumley. We’ll paint people’s houses and become rich and famous!” And I loved Mr. Whoopee’s entertaining lessons on the sort of subjects that interest small children, like how do airplanes fly? and what makes magnets work? Under Mr. Whoopee’s tutelage, I once made a working compass out of a needle, a magnet, a piece of cork, and a bowl full of water. Twenty-five years of watching an educational cartoon like “Arthur” would never have taught me anything like that.

    Even as a small child I noticed that among all the toys, games, and sporting goods that spilled out of Mr. Whoopee’s closet whenever he went to get the three-dimensional blackboard, there was always a human skull! I’ll just assume it was a prop from a production of Hamlet that he was in, and leave it at that.

    Speaking of cranial curiosities, I also noticed that in some episodes, Stanley Livingston’s head was rhomboid-shaped, while in others it was oval. It always confused me that I never saw him in an episode of “My Three Sons”, even though his name was in the opening credits.

    Another memorable character from the show was the delightfully named gangster Rocky Maninoff, who would threaten our heroes with the line “I’ll play youse two goofs a tune on my violin!” before blasting away with his machine gun. The utterly humorless composer Rachmaninoff, whom Igor Stravinsky once described as “six and a half feet of scowl,” would not have appreciated the homage.

    Thanks for this look back at a childhood favourite. You made my day!

    • Thank you, Paul! I’m glad that you enjoyed it and it brought back fond memories!

  • Funny. I never saw T.T. on TV (or heard him), but when I spotted the picture I thought he looked a bit like Don Adams.

    • I noticed the similarity too. As said, this was still a couple of years before “Get Smart”, but Don Adans was a regular on Bill Dana’s show, doing a fairly similar character. Guess he was well-known enough then, at least to the artists.

  • I always loved TT too! BTW The first season used Win Sharples stock music before they went to their own music.

  • I always thought Mr. Whoopee was a dirty old man.

  • When I was growing up, TENNESSEE TUXEDO AND HIS TALES was one of the highlights of TV cartoon animation for me. Every TV cartoon studio had its own “personality,” in the mid to late 1960s. Total TeleVision, Jay Ward, Hanna-Barbera, Rankin-Bass, Warner Bros., MGM, Walter Lantz, Terrytoons, etc. By the middle ’60s, I kind of grew out of Hanna-Barbera stuff, until SCOOBY-DOO and JONNY QUEST came along. I discovered Jay Ward, loved the classic cartoons on THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW and liked – most of the time – cartoons on THE WOODY WOODPECKER SHOW. POPEYE re-runs were great, but I already knew to look for the Fleischer versions for quality. We loved MIGHTY MOUSE and when I was smaller, I really loved TOM TERRIFIC on the CAPTAIN KANGAROO show. For Total TeleVision, their best stuff, I think was UNDERDOG and TENNESSEE TUXEDO.

    When I look back at it now, I am amazed how clever the writers were for TENNESSEE TUXEDO to mix in real science, math, history and sometimes even spelling with Mr. Whoopee and his “3-D BB”! The writers were forced to add “educational content” into the shows, but man, they did it right. Other cartoon studios would have made it not nearly as much fun to learn all this stuff, that we kids didn’t even know we were learning! Bravo!

  • It wasn’t until the Tennessee Tuxedo dvd boxed set came out some years back that I finally grasped some puzzling lyrics to the show’s theme song:
    “…that’s Tennessee Tuxedo!
    A small penguin
    Who tries but can’t succeed-o…”

    For five decades, I couldn’t for the life of me make out the last part of that; it sounded like nonsense words. Now I get it. “Succeed-o.” Hmm. It may not be much of a rhyme for “tuxedo,” but I’m not unsympathetic to the challenge.

    I would echo the praise of the other commenters for the consistent quality, intelligence and tone of the educational content interpolated into the episodes. Total went to a lot of trouble to research and script this material, and it really paid off. Larry Storch did a fine job narrating these in a straight-forward manner while remaining (more or less) in his Frank Morgan-inspired Mr. Whoopee character.

    A good show, deservedly fondly remembered. That dvd set is worth a look — it has some nice extras, like episode commentaries with Total’s Buck Biggers, Storch and Bradley Bolke (the voice of Chumley). Biggers and Storch have some interesting comments about Don Adams, who would frequently record his lines on the road while touring as a stand up and mail the tapes in to Total’s office!

    • I was well into adulthood before I could make out that line. My brother thought it was “A small penguin who drives a tan Torino.” But he never drove one in the show!


  • Great article! Thanks so much for reviving memories of the TotalTv output, which even at the time, I considered very nearly as good as Jay Ward….the only sticking point back then was my younger brother confusing KING LEONARDO with LINUS THE LION HEARTED…. I mean, cmon….the tone couldn’t have been more different! …..

    • Thank you, Rick! Glad you enjoyed it! Even with some memories of your brother’s confusion. 🙂 Thanks again!

  • “Tennessee Tuxedo” and Ken Snyder’s “The Funny Company” were created in response to FCC chairman Newton R. Minow’s comment back when that television was “a vast wasteland.”

  • THE FUNNY COMPANY was okay, but nowhere near as inventive with mixing educational material with comedy as the writers and actors were for TENNESSEE TUXEDO.

  • As I recall, Tennessee moved to ABC in 1966 on Sunday mornings then in 1967 got rebilled as “The Beagles & Tennessee Tuxedo” running Sunday afternoons (The Beagles, airing on CBS the season prior, were two musician dogs–Stringer and Tubby–who got put in publicity stunts by their agent).

  • I just happen to be watching the whole series right now. Like all Total TV toons, Tennessee relied on its share of catchphrases, notably “Tennessee Tuxedo will not fail!”, “Phineas j. Whoopie, you’re the greatest!” and “Get me out of here!”

  • Oh my goodness! This is a blast from the past. Tennessee Tuxedo was one of the cartoons I remember watching on Cartoon Network back in the day. Stylistically, the show did look similar to Rocky and Bullwinkle that for the longest time, I, too thought it was Jay Ward Productions. Thanks for another great article, Michael.

  • Such a great show, I show it to my kids today- like me, I don’t think they realize they are learning from it! Someone should update the show.

    And it’s fun to note, the producers took up the challenge of creating an education cartoon show- basically trying to prove it could be done. And boy they succed-o!

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