November 15, 2014


(ABC, September 9-December 30, 1967)

Jay Ward Productions

Bill Scott – George, Tom Slick, Gertie Growler, Super Chicken/Henry Cabot Henhouse III, various
June Foray – Ursula, Marigold, various
Paul Frees – Ape, District Commissioner Alistair, “Weevil” Plumtree, Baron Otto Matic, Fred, Narrator, various
Daws Butler – “Tiger” Titherage, Clutcher, various

Watch out for that...treeeeeeeeeeee!

            George of the Jungle was the final animated series created by Jay Ward. Developed along with Bill Scott, the program was broken up into three separate segments with different characters: George of the Jungle, Tom Slick and Super Chicken. Each segment received their own introduction with a theme song by Stan Worth and Sheldon Allman (George even got a shorter version for his own segments).

            The George segments featured the bumbling King of the Jungle George (Bill Scott) n a parody of Tarzan. He was a big-hearted, but dim-witted, ape man who protected the jungle. His preferred method of travel was by swinging on vines, which usually resulted in his crashing face-first into trees. Promotion for the series began several years before it premiered with George named “Walter” before it was changed to the most non-jungle-sounding name they could think of. George lived with his mate Ursula (June Foray) in a tree house; which George always forgot was a treehouse resulting in his falling to the ground whenever he left it in a running gag. George could never remember her name, referring to her by any other name (male or female) or simply as “fella,” regarding her as a strange-looking man who doesn’t shave. That’s why two of her were seen dancing in the show’s intro, to play on George’s confusion over her identity. George’s best friend was an intelligent ape named Ape (Paul Frees, impersonating Ronald Colman) and his pet was an elephant named Shep who behaved exactly like a dog and only responded to being called as such. Other inhabitants of the jungle included the District Commissioner (Frees), pygmies, the message-delivering Tooky Tooky bird, and poachers “Tiger” Titherage (Daws Butler) and “Weevil” Plumtree (Frees).

            Tom Slick was about all-American racecar driver Tom Slick (Scott, using a version of his Dudley Do-Right voice) who competed in various races by customizing his car, the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper. His pit crew consisted of his girlfriend, Marigold (Foray), and elderly mechanic, Gertie Growler (also Scott, in a manner similar to Jonathan Winters’ character Maude Frickert). Tom was portrayed as the stereotypical good guy who did no wrongs and was chivalrous towards women, facts his frequent nemesis Baron Otto Matic (Frees) took advantage of in order to win races by underhanded means. The Baron was aided by Clutcher (Butler, impersonating Frank Fontaine), his dim-witted lackey that often received a wrench upside the head for his blunders.

            Super Chicken was a parody of super hero stories, initially promoted in trade papers 3 years prior to its premiere. Well-to-do Henry Cabot Henhouse III (a play on Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and voiced by Scott) drank a special Super Sauce from a martini glass (or sometimes a bowl when its mixture came out differently) to become the super-powered Super Chicken. Super Chicken’s Super Suit consisted of a plumed cavalier’s hat, cape, Wellington boots, mask and a fencing sword. Super Chicken’s sidekick was Fred (Frees, impersonating Ed Wynn), a bumbling lion who wore a red sweater with a backwards “F” on it. They traveled around the city righting wrongs in the Super Coop, an egg-shaped air car. Originally, Tom Slick was the second feature in the program, but halfway through production his segment switched places with Super Chicken’s.

An original unaired pilot for George was made called “E Flat Elephants.” The plot of it featured two poachers looking to steal Shep for being the only African elephant to blow in E-Flat. Not much was different between the pilot and the finished show beyond George’s hair, which was rendered curlier. Ursula was also named Jane after Tarzan’s girlfriend, but the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs vetoed that resulting in its being changed. Ursula’s new name came from either the friend of director Bill Hurtz’s daughter or because she was inspired by Ursula Andress, as attested by Scott. 

Two pilots were made for Super Chicken. The original pilot featured Don Knotts as the lead voice before the project was scrapped and recast. In the second pilot, Super Chicken’s real name was Hunt Strongbird, Jr. and was played with a more snooty voice and smarmy personality. His design was slightly different and there was no mention of his Super Sauce. The Super Coupe also resembled a flying chicken coop, rather than an egg, further playing on its name. Super Chicken’s introduction closely parodied that of Superman’s 1940s serial openings. Fred remained largely unchanged, gaining sneakers instead of boots.

Tom Slick, Marigold and the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper.

The series animation, handled in Hollywood rather than Mexico, was more advanced than Ward’s earlier series, which pleased Ward so much he allowed production to go over budget. As a result, the series was produced at a loss leading to only the 17 episodes ever being produced. The series quickly ended its run and entered into syndication to try and recoup some of the losses before disappearing from the airwaves until the age of cable. Jay Ward Productions left TV shows behind and focused on producing commercials and designing the characters for them, such as Cap’n Crunch.

In 1969, Gold Key published two issues of a George of the Jungle comic also featuring Tom Slick and Super Chicken. In 1997, Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films released a live-action movie adaptation of the series starring Brendan Fraser as George, Leslie Mann as Ursula, John Cleese as the voice of Ape, and Frank Welker as Shep. The movie also featured “Weird Al” Yankovic’s cover of the George theme song from his 1985 album Dare to be Stupid, Yankovic’s only album-released straight cover song to date. In 2003, a direct-to-video sequel was made, with Christopher Showerman as George, Julie Benz as Ursula and Angus T. Jones as George Jr., George and Ursula’s son. Cleese reprised his role as Ape, and Thomas Haden Church was featured as Lyle Van de Groot, the nemesis for both films. Spawning from that, Disney released a series of plush toys for George, Ape and Shep. In 2000, Mattel produced a set of mini figurines.

In 2007, Cartoon Network commissioned a remake of the cartoon. Produced in Canada using Adobe Flash, the series featured two short George segments starring Lee Tockar in the title role, omitting Tom and Super Chicken. It retained the theme song, however it was performed by Urban Legend, gave Ursula (Britt Irvin) the last name of Scott, and introduced new character Magnolia (Tabitha St. Germain using a southern accent), a jungle native and Ursula’s best friend. The show lasted two seasons before ending in January of 2008. Both the classic series and the first season of the new series were released to DVD the same year. 

Fred and Super Chicken.

While George may have had attempts at new life after the series, it was Super Chicken that managed to stay ingrained in pop culture. His catchphrase “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it” had been referenced in numerous places. The line had appeared on an episode of Disney’s Darkwing Duck spoken by the titular character, quoted on the dedication page of historian Kenneth Cmiel’s book Democratic Eloquence: The Fight over Popular Speech in Nineteeth-Century America, and used in Jerry Pournelle and Roland Green’s novel Clan and Crown. During marketing for Bee Movie in one of the Bee Movie TV Junior sketches, creator and star Jerry Seinfeld recited the Super Chicken theme song. Ice Cube’s song “Ghetto Bird” makes reference to Super Chicken by name in one of the lyrics.

“E-Flat Elephants” – Charlie Fowler and African Rose plan to steal Shep, the only African elephant who blows in E-Flat.

“Super Chicken Pilot” – Chicken farmer Eggs Benedict develops a hatred for chickens and targets Super Chicken.

“The Malady Lingers On / Monster Rally / One of Our States is Missing” (9/16/67) – The Witch Doctor sends George after particular items to cure Shep. / Tom competes in a race against actual monsters. / Super Chicken’s former classmate steals Rhode Island.

“Ungawa the Gorilla God / Snow What / The Oyster” (9/30/67) – A tribe captures the District Commissioner and Shep to sacrifice to their god. / Baron Otto Mattic wages he’ll win a snowmobile race. / A criminal disguised as an oyster steals the world’s largest pearl.

“Oo-oo Birds of a Feather / Send in a Sub / Wild Ralph Hiccup” (9/23/67) – Poachers go after the feathers of the Oo-oo Birds. / Tom takes on undefeated Lucky Fool in a submarine race. / Super Chicken embarks on numerous flights to catch an airplane-robbing desperado.

“Monkey Business / I’ve Been Railroaded / The Elephant Spreader” (10/14/67) – Ape is kidnapped and forced to star in a jungle movie. / Tom and Gertie enter a train race. / Prince Blackhole shifts the Earth’s tilt with elephants to make it snow in India.

“The Desperate Showers / The Cupp Cup Race” / Rotten Hood (10/28/67) – A tribe wants to sacrifice Ursula to make it rain. / Tom converts the Grease-Slapper for a boat race. / Rotten Hood steals from the rich and keeps it.

“Little Scissors / The Great Balloon Race / The Eater Bunny” (10/7/67) – Tiny Tony Tailor and his pygmies are committing crimes. / Baron Otto Mattic will do anything to keep Tom from winning the balloon race. / Super Chicken tries to find out why the Easter Bunny has gone bad.

“Next Time, Take the Train / The Geezer / Dranko the Dragster” (10/21/67) – Dr. Chicago’s formula makes insects strong and aggressive. / An old geezer steals the famous geyser Old Faceful. / Tom enters a drag race.

“The Trouble I’ve Seed / The Noodle / Overstocked” (11/11/67) – Dr. Chicago’s new formula makes plants sentient. / The Noodle’s latest plan gives Super Chicken amnesia, causing Fred to take up the mantle. / Tom enters a stock car race against Sweet Willy Rollbar.

“Big Flop At the Big Top / Salvador Rag Dolly / The Sneaky Sheik” (12/2/67) – A circus wants to capture George to perform. / Salvador Rag Dolly uses wind-up toys to infiltrate birthday parties and steal valuables. / A Sneaky Shiek sabotages the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper.

“Rescue Is My Business / Merlin Brando / The Apple-Less Indian 500” (11/25/67) – George’s new manager believe he should charge for rescues. / Wizard Merlin Brando can only be the greatest by eliminating Super Chicken. / A failed desert apple orchard becomes a raceway.

“Dr. Schpritzer, I Presume? / The Fat Man / The Double Cross Country Race” (11/18/67) – George is tasked to find the missing Dr. Schpritzer. / The Fat Man steals the priceless Maltese duck. / Baron Otto Mattic tricks Tom with a fake race map.

“The Chi Chi Dog / Briggs Bad-Wolf / The Cheap Skateboard Derby” (12/9/67) – George is asked to help a wealthy couple find the rare Chi Chi Dog. / Actor Briggs Bad Wolf comes to believe he really is a villain. / Tom enters a motorized skateboarding race.

“The Treasure of Sarah Madre / The Laundry Man / The Irish Cheapstakes” (11/4/67) – George and the District Commissioner go on a treasure hunt. / Super Chicken must capture a money launderer and return the money to the crooks. / Baron Otto Matic enters a race under an alias.

“A Man of All Hunting Seasons / The Muscle / The Badyear Blimp” (12/16/67) – A hunter turns his sights on George. / Super Chicken needs to enhance his strength to take on a bodybuilder. / Baron Otto Matic’s lackey races against Tom in a blimp race.

“The Forest’s Prime Evil / Dr. Gizmo / The Swamp Buggy Race” (12/23/67) – George is evicted by a developer who wants to civilize the jungle. / Inventive criminal Dr. Gizmo escapes capture. / Baron Otto Matic disguises himself as a woman to take advantage of Tom.

“Kings Back to Back / The Wild Hair / The Mack Buster Trophy” (12/30/67) – George is up for re-election as King of the Jungle. / A mad scientist’s living toupee grows out of control. / Gertie mortgages her garage to allow Tom to convert the Grease-Slapper into an airplane.

“The Sultan’s Pearl / The Zipper / The Bigg Race” (9/9/67) – George tries to retrieve the Sultan’s stolen treasure. / Super Chicken must stop The Zipper from blowing up the world. / Tiny Bigg sponsors a race that Tom must win so Gertie can pay her mortgage.

No comments: