March 06, 2021

TOP CAT

 

TOP CAT
(ABC, September 27, 1961-April 18, 1962)

 

Hanna-Barbera Productions

 

            Top Cat was one of the prime-time sitcoms developed by Hanna-Barbera Productions in their early years. It was partly inspired by the East Side Kids--tough kid characters that starred in a series of films from Monogram Pictures between 1940-45--but took most of its inspiration from The Phil Silvers Show. The titular Top Cat (T.C. to his friends, voiced by Arnold Stang impersonating Silvers) was the feline leader of a gang of alley cats comprised of simple-minded Benny the Ball (modeled after his voice actor Maurice Gosfield, who also starred in Silvers), enthusiastic and devoted Choo-Choo (Marvin Kaplan, invoking Woody Allen), the ironically-named Brain (Leo De Lyon), laid-back ladies’ man Fancy-Fancy (John Stephenson) and beatnik Spook (also Lyon). T.C. would summon his gang by clanging two garbage can lids together and then proceed to lead them on a series of (often illegal) get-rich-quick schemes. Standing in their way was beat cop Charles Dibble (Allen Jenkins), who often put a stop to their schemes but was unable to evict them from the alley or get them to stop using the police call box phone for their personal use.


Signed art of Dibble looking on as Brain, Benny, Fancy-Fancy, T.C., Spook and Choo Choo cause a ruckus in the alley.

            Top Cat debuted on ABC on September 27, 1961, featuring music from regular Hanna-Barbera composer Hoyt Curtin. Co-creator William Hanna called it one of the wittiest and most sophisticated shows he produced that had a rare appeal to audiences of all ages. Unfortunately, the show was only a modest success and only lasted a single season of 30 episodes that ABC would rerun as part of their Saturday morning schedule. However, that was just in America. Top Cat was a massive hit in Mexico, Chile, Peru and Argentina, and T.C. has been regarded as one of the most famous cartoon characters ever in those territories. In 1988, Hanna-Barbera produced a 2-hour television movie called Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats that aired as part of their Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 series of telefilms, and the characters continued to appear or make cameos in other Hanna-Barbera shows. Mexican animation studio Ánima Estudios would produce and release a theatrical film in 2011. While it did well in Mexico, the English dub was widely panned. In 2015, they released a CGI prequel that fared no better, even in its home country.

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