The Dick Tracy Show

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This article is about the 1960s cartoon series. For the comic strip on which it is based, see Dick Tracy.
The Dick Tracy Show
Also known as 'The Adventures of Dick Tracy'
Genre Animation / Crime / Adventure / Comedy
Created by Chester Gould
Written by
Directed by
Presented by UPA
Voices of
Theme music composer Carl Brandt
Composer(s) Carl Brandt
George Steiner
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 130
Production
Executive producer(s)
Editor(s) Ted Baker
Running time 5 minutes
Release
Original network First-run syndication
Picture format Color (Technicolor)
Audio format Mono
Original release January 1, 1961 (1961-01-01) – January 1, 1962 (1962-01-01)
Chronology
Related shows The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo

The Dick Tracy Show is an American animated television series based on Chester Gould's comic strip crime fighter. The series was produced from 1961 to 1962 by UPA.

Summary[edit]

Tracy employed a series of cartoony subordinate flatfoots to fight crime each week, contacting them on his two-way wristwatch radio. Everett Sloane voiced Tracy, while Mel Blanc and Paul Frees voiced many of the other characters, including:

  • Joe Jitsu, a parody of Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto (featuring many movie images of Chinese and Japanese culture). He is an intelligent detective who fights with martial arts (repeatedly slamming his victim to the ground while saying "So sorry!... Excuse prease!... Begging your pardon!"). He is named after the Japanese martial art of jujitsu. Benny Rubin provided his voice throughout the series.
  • Hemlock Holmes, a loud, bumbling, Cockney police bulldog (named in honor of Sherlock Holmes and with a voice patterned after Cary Grant) voiced by Jerry Hausner. He is backed up by his own police squad, The Retouchables (named after The Untouchables, but looking and behaving more like the Keystone Kops).
  • Heap O'Calorie, a parody of Andy Devine, voiced by "Uncle" Johnny Coons. This red headed street cop has a serious weight problem and a penchant for stealing apples from an outdoor fruit stand. Before setting out on an assignment, Heap would invariably get the "word on the street" from a bongo-pounding beatnik (named "Nick") who communicated solely by beating coded messages on his drums.
  • Manuel Tijuana Guadalajara Tampico "Go-Go" Gomez, Jr., essentially a human version of Speedy Gonzales, another Blanc character, though Paul Frees did his voice for most of the series. Go-Go wears a big Sombrero and a big grin and is often seen lounging in a hammock while waiting for an assignment.

Whenever one of Tracy's detectives found themselves in sudden danger (a bullet speeding towards them, falling off a cliff, etc.) he would yell, "Hold everything!" The action would obediently screech to a halt and "wait", while the detective called headquarters for further instructions. Action would resume only after the sign-off catchphrase, "Six-two and even, over and out" was spoken at the end of the call.

Villains taken from Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould's popular comic strip usually had names that served as descriptions of their physical appearance or some other peculiarity. All were paired with another villain for the cartoon series. They included Pruneface who worked with Itchy, Mumbles and Stooge Viller, Flattop and B.B. Eyes, The Brow and Oodles, and The Mole and Sketch Paree. Each pair of crooks had at least one member who smoked either a cigar or a cigarette on an extender. One villain created specifically for the cartoon was Cheater Gunsmoke, who appeared in two episodes. Gunsmoke was a Texas-sounding cigar smoker with a literal cloud of smoke obscuring his face and head. Out of all the villains in the cartoon, Stooge (1933) was the first to appear in the comic strip and Oodles appeared last (1955), 6 years before the show was aired.

Some of the villains were given voices patterned after famous actors. Flattop sounded like Peter Lorre, B.B.Eyes like Edward G. Robinson, and The Brow like James Cagney.[citation needed]

The cartoons seldom involved the title character. Tracy would always open each film in his office with the dialog, "Okay, Chief! I'll get on it right away. Dick Tracy calling..." He would then hand the case over to one of his comic law-enforcement assistants, who engaged in slapstick battles with the crooks, (who, compared to their comic strip counterparts were penny ante and not as bright). Tracy showed up at the very end, usually by car or helicopter, to congratulate the assistant on a job well done and take the crooks into custody. It could be argued that Tracy as Chief of Detectives, was too stalward and heroic for the comedic roles that the funny subordinates played.

Mr. Magoo crossover[edit]

UPA was also the producer of the Mr. Magoo cartoons, and a crossover was arranged between Tracy and Magoo in a 1965 episode of the TV series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. In this episode, "Dick Tracy and the Mob", Tracy persuades Magoo (a well-known actor in the context of the Famous Adventures series) to impersonate an international hit man whom he resembles, and infiltrate a gang of criminals made up of Pruneface (their leader in this case), Itchy, Flattop, Mumbles, The Mole and The Brow. Unlike the earlier animated Tracy shorts, this longer episode was played relatively straight, with Tracy getting much more screen time and Chief Patton was part of the episode. It's notable for pitting Tracy against a coalition of most of his foes, a conceit that would be adopted more than two decades later in the 1990 film. None of Tracy's assistants (Hemlock Holmes, Joe Jitsu, etc.) appeared, and several villains sounded nothing like their Dick Tracy Show counterparts. For example, Howard Morris took over the roles of Flattop and Oodles, although Everette Sloane reprised his role as Tracy.

Original syndicated run[edit]

These 130 five-minute cartoons were designed and packaged for syndication much in the same way Associated Artists Productions packaged the Popeye and pre-August 1948 Warner Bros. shorts. Usually intended for morning and afternoon children's television series, a local host would introduce the cartoon as part of the show.

The cartoon show was a success perhaps as a child's version of The Untouchables that was popular at the time. Local hosts of the show offered "Dick Tracy Crimestopper" badges and certificates their viewers could send in for. Mattel toys manufactured a series of toy weapons and a board game with the Dick Tracy logo and the Crimestoppers could communicate with each other by toy Dick Tracy wrist radios.

Controversy[edit]

The Dick Tracy Show was pulled from syndication in the mid-1970s, and mid-1980s, and was not seen for years afterward because of what some perceived as racist undertones and use of ethnic stereotypes and accents.[1][2] The show resurfaced on television in 1990 to coincide with the release of the feature film, as well as in 2006 on pay-per-view digital cable channels and DVD.

The cartoon appeared on various independent stations across the United States in June 1990 (to coincide with the release of the live-action feature film, as previously mentioned). Asian and Hispanic groups started charging that characters Joe Jitsu (an Asian buck-toothed character) and Go Go Gomez (a sombrero-wearing Mexican) were seen to some as offensive stereotypes. Two stations in Los Angeles removed the airings and edited episodes were then sent out while one station, KCAL Channel 9, who at the time were owned by Disney, continued to broadcast The Dick Tracy Show until July 4, 1990. Henry G. Saperstein, then the chairman of UPA, stated "It's just a cartoon, for goodness sake."[3] Others pointed out that the 'stereotypes' included two Anglos ( Hemlock and Heap), and that the Joe Jitsu character (Ju-Jitsu is a Japanese martial art) was a deliberate attempt to re-introduce a sympathetic Japanese character after the passions of the last war had died down.

VHS[edit]

The show was released on VHS in 1986 by Hi Top video. The first volume being DIck Tracy and the Oyster Caper. Then in 1989 by Paramount Home Video in thirteen volumes, each containing ten episodes and crimestopper tips by Tracy (voiced by Everette Sloane).

DVD[edit]

All episodes were released by Classic Media on a 4-disc DVD set "Collector's Edition". The show is also available in its original unedited form on Netflix.

References[edit]

External links[edit]