King Leonardo and His Short Subjects
|King Leonardo and his Short Subjects|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes|
|Executive producer(s)||Peter M. Piech|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Total Television|
|Picture format||Color (initially telecast in black-and-white)|
|Original release||October 15, 1960– September 28, 1963|
King Leonardo and his Short Subjects is an animated cartoon series released in 1960 by Total Television (which would later rename itself Leonardo Productions after the main character of this show), sponsored by General Mills.
The show focused on Leonardo the lion (voiced by Jackson Beck), the well-meaning but often inept king of Bongo Congo, a fictional African nation notable for its bongos. King Leonardo is assisted in all things by a calm, competent skunk named Odie Cologne or "Odie O. Cologne" (voiced by Allen Swift). Odie, the one who really keeps the kingdom on an even keel, has been by the king's side since they were children.
King Leonardo's permanent foe is the gangster-visaged Biggie Rat (voiced by Beck), who routinely attempts to overthrow Leonardo and take over Bongo Congo. Biggie often has the help of Leonardo's sibling Itchy Brother (voiced by Swift), or an evil German inventor named Professor Messer (voiced by Beck). Biggie and his henchmen's various schemes always end in either landing in the dungeon or getting away.
Episodes of "The King and Odie" that were exclusive to Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales feature Biggie Rat and Itchy Brother employed by Mr. Mad (voiced by Norman Rose), a mad scientist with a domineering personality. When each of his schemes falls through, Mr. Mad disappears "as if by magic" before he can be apprehended.
Each half-hour episode of King Leonardo consisted of five animated segments. Each half-hour included a two-part King and Odie episode, with other characters featured in between:
- Tooter Turtle: The adventures of a turtle (voiced by Swift) who has Mr. Wizard the Lizard (voiced by Sandy Becker) transport him to various settings, only to realize he was better off at home after all.
- The Hunter: A Southern-accented, crime-fighting bloodhound detective (voiced by Kenny Delmar, reprising his Senator Claghorn voice from The Fred Allen Show) chases after a criminal fox named The Fox (voiced by Ben Stone); The Fox is always apprehended in the end.
These shorts were added to fill time when production of the early shows was delayed. The Columbia cartoons were featured during NBC showings of Hanna-Barbera's Ruff and Reddy, but not included in subsequent syndicated versions of the series.
After King Leonardo and his Short Subjects ended, one season of new segments of "The King and Odie" and "The Hunter" continued to be produced and aired on Total TV's Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, which premiered in 1963. The following year, Total TV launched its most popular series, Underdog. When Underdog premiered in 1964, it featured repeats of The Hunter, while The Hunter's former spot on the Tennessee Tuxedo program was filled by repeats of Tooter Turtle.
Another segment of the original King Leonardo show was Twinkles (an orange elephant), which simultaneously appeared as a feature on Jay Ward's Rocky and his Friends [over Ward's objections; after a brief period, it was seen on King Leonardo exclusively]. The title character served as the mascot of Twinkles Cereal, a product of the show's chief sponsor, General Mills. The 90-second Twinkles segments continued to air in syndication during the 1960s, and were presented in a 15-minute format under the title The King and Odie, but later phased out after a firefighter character replaced the elephant as the cereal's mascot. The segments also appeared during some NBC network rebroadcasts of Underdog. The Twinkles segments were not included when King Leonardo And His Short Subjects was syndicated in a half-hour format during the 1980s.
King Leonardo and his Short Subjects was part of NBC's Saturday-morning lineup until 1963. Each program followed The Shari Lewis Show.
The animation for the show's early segments was produced by TV Spots, with later episodes by Gamma Productions, the same Mexico-based studio that did much of the work for Jay Ward Productions. For this reason, and due to shared sponsorship by General Mills, Gamma has often been associated with both Total Television Productions and Jay Ward Productions. TV Spots was primarily a producer of animated commercials, but also was contracted for some segments of Rocky and His Friends for Jay Ward Productions.
In reruns, Total Television shorts often have been packaged alongside Jay Ward cartoons. Despite similar limited-animation styles, they were two separate studios.
King Leonardo, despite its earlier episodes repackaged for syndication as The King and Odie during the mid-1960s, never attained the popularity of Total Television's other series, Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo, and is rarely seen on television today. Beginning in 2006, the Black Family Channel aired this show on its BFC Kids TV programming block until the channel's demise a year later. The characters of this show were also featured in an eight-issue comic book produced by Dell Comics and Gold Key.
- Jackson Beck – King Leonardo, Biggie Rat, Professor Messer
- Allen Swift – Odie Cologne, Itchy Brother, Duke, Earl, Tooter Turtle, Narrator ("The King and Odie")
- Sandy Becker – Mr. Wizard
- Kenny Delmar – The Hunter, Narrator ("The Hunter")
- Ben Stone – The Fox, Officer Flim Flanigan
- Norman Rose – Mr. Mad, Narrator (several 1963 episodes of "The King and Odie")
- Delo States – various female and children's voices
- George S. Irving – Narrator ("Twinkles"), various voices