Suspended Animation #301
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! … With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
The fictional masked former Texas Ranger first appeared on a Detroit radio show in 1933 conceived by George Trendle and Fran Striker. The character became so popular that he appeared in novels, comic strips and comic books, movies, a television show and tons of merchandise.
So it is not surprising that he also was the subject for animation especially parodies like Bob Clampett’s The Lone Stranger and Porky (1939) where the Western hero (voiced by Billy Bletcher) saves stagecoach driver Porky from the bad guy.
The earliest example of the Lone Ranger is animation is an undated two minute and forty second cartoon released by Pathegrams and produced by Roy Meredith sometime during the late 1930s.
The assumption has always been that it might have been done for some type of promotional use for Merita Bread that began sponsoring the popular Lone Ranger radio program at that time and produced multiple promotional items with the characters. Merita later sponsored the Lone Ranger television show as well.
The short cartoon is in black-and-white and is silent but has title cards for dialog and explanation. Some of the animation is quite good but is re-used frequently (sometimes even flipped so it is facing the other direction). No credits other than producer seem to exist for this oddity.
Pathegrams Presents The Lone Ranger. A Cartoon. Produced by Roy Meredith. The Masked Rider.
The Lone Ranger on his white horse Silver gallops on to the screen accompanied by Tonto on his horse Scout. The cactus and rock formations suggest the deserts of the southwest United States. In the distance, cattle are being herded across the screen.
Tonto points and says: “What’s going on? Looks like cattle rustling. Let’s go!” They both ride off with the Lone Ranger shouting: “Hiegh-O (sic) Silver….away.”
They find a battered old man hanging from the branch of a tree. Tonto points and shouts: “LOOK!” A title card states: “The work of cattle rustlers.”
The Lone Ranger shoots the rope holding the man so that he falls to the ground. They gather around the man who is still alive. He points off screen and says: “Get them! They stole my cattle!” The Lone Ranger and Tonto see the empty corral and the cattle being herded away.
“…After them Tonto!” shouts the Lone Ranger as he and Tonto ride their horses. “Hiegh-O (sic) Silver…Away.” The two rustlers take refuge behind some rocks and shoot at the two champions of justice.
The Lone Ranger tells his faithful Indian companion: “Tonto. Get behind those rocks…Quick.” The two return fire with seemingly unlimited ammunition from their six-shooters. After a short gun battle, the rustlers tie white handkerchiefs to the tips of their rifles and wave them in the air to surrender. They stand up and raise their hands.
Without taking them into custody, tying them up or handing them over to the authorities, the Lone Ranger and Tonto ride back to the rancher still on the ground. “We got ‘em, Rancher. Your herd’s safe,” says the Lone Ranger even though they never brought the herd back.
“The bandits are captured Tonto….our work here is finished,” summarizes the Lone Ranger as he and Tonto ride off.
The first Lone Ranger animated television series aired for thirty episodes on CBS Saturday morning from September 10th, 1966 to September 6, 1969. It was produced by Herb Klynn and Jules Engel of Format films.
It included work by Art Babbit and Bill Tytla as directors among others and Virgil Ross as an animator. The animation was done by the Halas and Batchelor studio in England and Artransa Park Studios in Australia.
The opening theme song of the William Tell Overture was recorded in London with a forty piece orchestra including members from both The London Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras.
“The thing we brought to The Lone Ranger,” said producer Herb Klynn, “was a totally new graphic.”
Multi-layered montaged backgrounds featuring shapes of luminous color held together by cels featuring illustrations that used grease pencils on the acetate instead of ink to get strong compelling black lines was used. Walt Peregoy was responsible for much of the background art.
“Creative talent cannot be contained,” stated Klynn. “It must be allowed to breathe, to try new avenues…you have to experiment and go through a creative evolutionary process. That’s what we did. We were a team, a family with no boundaries.”
Each thirty minute episode was spilt into three separate segments with the middle segment being a solo adventure featuring Tonto voiced by Shepard Menken who did many voices for a variety of animation projects. Michael Rye was the voice of the Lone Ranger.
The narrator was Marvin Miller and the show had an impressive roster of other voices including Paul Winchell, Agnes Moorehead and Hans Conried.
This version of the Lone Ranger saga was heavily inspired by The Wild, Wild West live action television show that had debuted on CBS in 1965. It veered into science-fiction with its steampunk technology and stories with robots, space aliens and death rays. Like the Robert Conrad television show, the Ranger’s greatest villain was a little person who in this case was named Tiny Tom and voiced by Dick Beals.
An animated Filmation Lone Ranger made his debut in a September 30th, 1972 episode of The Brady Kids. Bobby Brady is a big fan of the Lone Ranger.
He wishes his new Lone Ranger Fan Club pin was real silver so Marlon, the magical mynah misunderstands and materializes the Lone Ranger’s horse by that name in the clubhouse. The Lone Ranger (John Erwin) and Tonto show up but are arrested by the police as members of the Masquerade Gang.
The New Adventures of the Lone Ranger ran for fourteen episodes (twenty-eight stories) on CBS Saturday morning from September 13th, 1980 –January 30th, 1982 as part of the Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour.
Filmation had success in the 1980s using rotoscoping to produce animated series with realistic human characters like Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Zorro. It was not much of a stretch to tackle The Lone Ranger.
Producer Lou Scheimer had approached actors Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels to reprise their television roles for the animated series but Moore had reservations and so William Conrad agreed to voice the main character but insisted on being billed as “J. Darnoc” (Conrad spelled backwards).
Tonto was voiced by Ivan Naranjo, a Blackfoot/Southern Ute actor from Colorado and the character was made more articulate.
The series eschewed violence in keeping with programming concerns at the time and emphasized more of a historical approach with appearance by Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Wild Bill Hickcock. At the end of each episode the Masked Man would narrate a thirty second “history bite” in keeping with the show’s educational approach.