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The story behind Underdog

If Jay Ward, Hanna Barbera and Rankin-Bass rate biographical tomes, certainly the output of Total Television deserves a historical overview. Sight unseen (except for its fabulous Mike Kazaleh cover – click thumbnail below to enlarge image) I am recommending this forthcoming book by Mark Arnold: Created and Produced by Total TeleVision Productions.

Frequently compared to and confused with Jay Ward Productions, this is the company that created such characters as Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, Tooter Turtle, Commander McBragg, Go Go Gophers, King and Odie, The Hunter, and The Beagles. The history of Gamma Productions, the little Mexican animation studio that animated most of the Jay Ward Productions, is covered — and the book contains a complete episode listing of every known Total TeleVision production. Illustrated with storyboards and character merchandise, Arnold wrote the book using personal interviews with the four owners of TTV (Buck Biggers, Chet Stover, Tread Covington and Joe Harris) as well as voice artists Allen Swift (Simon Bar Sinister), Bradley Bolke (Chumley the Walrus), animators Frank Andrina of TV Spots and Roman Arambula of Gamma Productions. And the book promises to finally answer a question we’ve been asking ourselves for years: What the heck is The Colossal Show? Copies are now available from BearManor Media.

  • I loved these cartoons when I was a kid, especially Underdog & Tennessee Tuxedo. Too bad they pretty much vanished by the late 70s because today’s kids don’t know what they’re missing (I still smile thinking about Mr Whoopee’s 3D-BB).

  • top cat james

    Definitely gonna buy this!

    For the story behind The Colossal Show:

  • Robert Barker

    Always disliked these shows. Hated Underdog. Dismissed Leonardo, had contempt for Tennessee Tuxedo. They brought down the level of Saturday morning animation. The Jetsons and Flinstsones were so much better. Okay, Tooter Turtle I had a little fondness for, waiting for the Wizard to bring him home.

  • Very exciting, and WAY overdue! :)

    I can’t wait to pick this up… I look forward to learning more about this long overlooked company.

    King and Odie, I mean, come ON! Sweet nostalgia!

  • Christopher Cook

    Maybe they’ll shed some light on those failed pilots “Cauliflower Collie” and “Gene Hattree.”

  • Elwood P. Dowd

    Total Television took what was left of UPA’s noble design intent and used it for hackwork, rendering the overuse of counterfeit cartoon cubism synonomous with drek. This look was rediscovered in the early to mid 1990’s by the makers of the first wave of “What A Cartoon!” shorts and now again means nothing, thanks to how quick and dirty it can be in the wrong hands.

  • Killroy McFate

    Phineas J. Whoopee taught me how to build a suspension bridge and how a steam engine works! Top that, Sesame Street!

  • Al Geronimo

    “Well well, Chumley, it looks like we’re in the undertaking business. You hold the stiff while I plant him with this hammer.”

  • “Maybe they’ll shed some light on those failed pilots “Cauliflower Collie” and “Gene Hattree.””

    It’s in the book…

  • That’s “Cauliflower Cabbie,” and yes, there is background on that long forgotten character in the book.

    (Interesting story: I’ve been immersed in the minutae of TV animation since I was an adolescent, so I was always more than a little skeptical when a college friend would insist on having seen a TV cartoon called “Cauliflower Cabbie” — not only had I never seen it, I’d never even read about it. Anywhere!

    Gone are the days — now you could settle a question like that with 15 seconds and an internet connection.)

  • So, the Colossal Show is a lost Terrytoons? Hope somebody finds it!

    I should check this out someday. I was fond of Underdog as a kid and this sounds like an interesting read.

  • Christopher Cook

    “Maybe they’ll shed some light on those failed pilots “Cauliflower Collie” and “Gene Hattree.””

    It’s in the book…”

    Graci, Mark. And thanks for correcting the title for me. It had been a while since I saw “Cauliflower” (who went under the hero name “The Champion”) that I got a mite fuzzy. Never saw it on network TV–it surfaced on an independent station here running the Underdog show.

  • This looks like fun. Tennessee Tuxedo and Tooter Turtle were always fun to watch, with the thickest cartoon outline I can remember seeing in the 60’s. Congrats to Mike Kazaleh on the cover! It’ll be fun to get the inside scoop on production. I always thought that driving American animation to Mexico was closer than a slow boat to Asia, but I could be wrong.

  • Inkan1969

    McBragg, Hunter, the Gophers, why are they all so angry with Underdog?

  • Professor Widebottom

    Tooter Turtle always scared the hell out of me.

    As one who also confused this studio with Jay Ward, I’ll be looking into this book. Thanks.

  • uncle wayne

    So you’ve definitely sold (many) a copy today….to myself included! Drizzle, Drazzle, Drizzle, Drome!…..

  • They’re all jealous of Underdog that he’s the top TTV toon!!

  • Bob Johnson

    Sorry, how do you order this?

  • sporridge

    Is it just me, or does “Go Go Gophers” seem incredibly anarchic in retrospect? If any metal guitarists are reading this, the theme song’s due for ya.

    Enjoyed the Underdog villains until I got a little older and discovered how they were “channeling” Lionel Barrymore, George Raft, etc., etc.

    “Simon says… crush George Bailey!”

  • craig m

    I always thought the message of Tooter the Turtle was disturbing. Tooter, how dare you look to better yourself! You’re a lowly turtle destined for a life of menial labor and any attempt to improve yourself will result in unimaginable pain and trauma.

  • Ever notice that the mayor character from “The Powerpuff Girls” was a dead-on impression of Mr. Whoopee? I’m not sure who voiced Whoopee, but I think Tom Kenny must’ve had it in the back of his mind!

  • Come to think of it I think it was Larry Storch.

  • FP

    In an episode of THE HUNTER, the dog guy in the coat got his eyeballs shot out. That freaked me out. Bigtime.

  • Matthew,

    Yes, that was Larry Storch voicing Mr. Whoopee.

  • I suppose it’s possible to find some kind of merit in just about anything, no matter how crappy it is.

    When a cartoon studio’s output compares badly to post-MGM Hanna-Barbera or even (yoicks!) Terrytoons, there’s not much to be said for it. Maybe a paragraph or two on Wikipedia, but definitely not a book!

    I’m working on a scholarly study of the history of Jack-In-The-Box restaurants, and I’ll get back to you when I’m finished with it and find a publisher. For the first time ever, I think it might have an audience!

  • Tom Heres

    “Chumley, we’ve got to get a job or they won’t feed us!”

    I loved and still do love these cartoons.

  • Bob Porrazzp


    YA got me interested in this book. I remember seeing these ‘toons, even in the 1980’s and 90’s. I have Underdog on DVD–AND NO NOT THE GOD AWFUL LIVE ACTION PIECE OF DOG POOP!

  • Karl Wilcox

    I always loved Tennessee Tuxedo, King Leonardo, Underdog and the
    rest. This book is definitely on my “wish list.”

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Random TTV observations:

    “Go Go Gophers” could never be made today; it was politically incorrect on so many levels.

    The Fox was responsible for what I always thought was the most half-assed crime wave in history. OK, he steals the Statue of Liberty … but then he takes it to some Eastern European backwater and charges the locals a kopek a head to look at it?

    And there’s no way I can forget the Underdog Thanksgiving story where Simon goes back in time to sour relations between the Indians and the Puritans thus canceling Thanksgiving and its ensuing parade, enabling him to cross the street to rob a bank.

    And yeah, in addition to Tooter Turtle’s regular reality check concerning his dream job du jour, I also got the sense that Tennessee Tuxedo stood a good chance of being something if The Man wasn’t keeping him down and in a zoo.

    And despite all that and more (Klondike Kat), it’s hard to imagine animation without ’em. Sort of like the thesis of Elijah Wald’s “How The Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll”: that an art form evolves when you take not only the best but also the rest into consideration.

  • Osgood Cobblepot

    TTV’s Underdog may have been a low rung in the animation world, but it was ‘topped’ by the expensive live action fiasco that was Disney’s “Underdog” feature. And where is Sweet Polly Purebread on that book cover? If they’re cutting her out here, she should get her very own book later! Sweet Polly was as needed to make Underdog work as a character as were his power pills.

  • AnthroCoon

    Joe Harris will be a guest of honor at Anthrocon in Pittsburgh next week

  • I spent waaaaay too much time as a kid perfecting my Don Adams impression based on watching Tennessee Tuxedo.

    And at least Tooter Turtle inspired the chorus to the Replacements’ Hold My Life.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    Nice job on the cover, Mike!

    “Go Go Gophers” could never be made today; it was politically incorrect on so many levels

    Begging the Colonel’s pardon, sir – but I disagree. All the characters were cartoony and stereotypical, not just the “Indians”. And as I recall, both Indian characters (called Ruffled Feathers and Running Board, if fond memory serves) were the protagonists! They more than held their own against the U.S. cavalry and its expansionist policies. If anything, the series was, in some ways, ahead of its time.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    Ever notice that the mayor character from “The Powerpuff Girls” was a dead-on impression of Mr. Whoopee? I’m not sure who voiced Whoopee, but I think Tom Kenny must’ve had it in the back of his mind!

    The mayor of Townsville’s voice is almost certainly based on Frank Morgan, of The Wizard of Oz fame.

  • While not quite on the level of Jay Ward’s work, the Total Television stuff was a lot of fun. Some of the best voice characterizations ever. And those theme songs! Also: a good example of how to pad a 30 minute tv show so each episode only needs about 14 minutes of new content. It seems like every segment had a theme song, a recap, and a closing theme.

    A walrus and a penguin and a magic blackboard. Doesnt get any more dada then that.

  • “If anything, the series was, in some ways, ahead of its time.”

    Yeah, especially when you consider that Ruffled Feathers and Running board were the last surviving members of their tribe; all the rest had been slaughtered by the cavalry…and this was established in the cartoon’s title sequence!

    For many years, I thought that the Ramones would be the perfect choice for a cover version of the Go Go Gophers theme song.

    I liked a lot of the character designs from Total TeleVision, but always expected the cartoons themselves to be as funny than the designs. That said, I can’t wait to read Mark’s book; just because I’m not enamored with the cartoons themselves, I’m intensely interested in learning more about the inside story on how they were made.

    But if you want to examine the studio that made some GREAT TV cartoons during the same period…when can we expect CHIPMUNKS AND LAWMEN: THE STORY OF FORMAT FILMS?

  • Here’s the entire book (from Wikipedia):

    “Format Films was a television animation studio which was founded by Herbert Klynn. It was most active during the 1960s, producing episodes of The Alvin Show, Popeye, and The Lone Ranger. The studio also created eleven shorts in Warner Bros.’ theatrical Road Runner series under the direction of Rudy Larriva. Format also was responsible for the animated characters on the television show, Hee Haw.”