For the history of the Harlem Globetrotters, check out the post here.
|Globetrotters character model sheet.|
The series adapted the then-current team of Globetrotters into animated form; however, seasoned voice actors were used as not all of the players could actually act. The team included their leader, who always got them in--and out--of trouble, Meadowlark Lemon (Scatman Crothers), bald Freddie “Curly” Neal (Stu Gilliam), Hubert “Geese” Ausbie (Johnny Williams), giant strongman J.C. “Gip” Gipson (Richard Elkins), diminutive Pablo “Pabs” Robertson (Robert DoQui) and scatterbrained Bobby Joe Mason (Eddie Anderson) as they traveled around in their American flag-colored bus. Originally, coach Leon Hillard was going to be featured in the series, but as production began he was cut out and replaced with original character Granny (Nancy Wible), who served as the team’s coach and driver. The team was also given a dog mascot in the form of Dribbles (Don Messick).
|Close-up character art from the Globetrotters album.|
Harlem Globetrotters debuted on CBS on September 12, 1970. Like other Hanna-Barbera productions, the series followed a formula for each episode. Typically, they would find the Globetrotters winding up in a location where they get involved in some kind of conflict either voluntarily or by chance. The Globetrotters settled the matter with a basketball game in which the villains would constantly cheat to win. But, of course, the Globetrotters managed to turn it around in the second half and triumph over all adversity; driving home the pro-social message of sportsmanship and fair play. The series was written by Heywood Kling, Tom Dagenais, Michael Maltese and Dalton Sandifer, with Joe Ruby and Ken Spears serving as story editors.
|Globetrotters 1971 program.|
Globetrotters was not only the first Saturday morning carton to feature real sports stars, but it was the first to feature a predominantly African-American cast; both on screen and in the recording booth. It shared a distinction with another Hanna-Barbera property that aired earlier in the day: Josie and the Pussycats, which featured the first African-American female character. The year prior, Filmation’s The Hardy Boys had the first African-American male.
|The Globetrotters album.|
Don Kirshner, music supervisor for the show, also oversaw the production of a soundtrack featuring the music used in the program; typically, from the basketball games in each episode. The record, The Globetrotters, was produced by series theme composer Jeff Barry and released in 1970 by Kirshner Records. The songs “Cheer Me Up” with “Gravy” and “Rainy Day Bells” with “Meadowlark” were released as two separate single albums. Three more single albums were released with songs not featured on Globetrotters; one of which included the actual Globetrotters’ theme, “Sweet Georgia Brown”. The real Meadowlark provided background vocals on several of the tracks, making him the only Globetrotter to have any direct involvement in the project.
|Page from the Harlem Globetrotters comic by Gold Key.|
Globetrotters ran for a full first season and an abbreviated second season before it was ultimately cancelled. The series did make a brief return to television in reruns in 1978 as Go-Go Globetrotters on NBC. In 1971, the team made their first appearance in Gold Key Comics’ Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #8 before getting their own twelve-issue series between 1972 and 1975. Whitman also published several coloring books. Milton Bradley produced a board game using the Hanna-Barbera character models, while Thermos released two different lunchboxes; one of which depicted an actual scene from an episode.
|The New Scooby-Doo Movies title card introducing the Globetrotters.|
The Globetrotters were featured guests in three episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies in 1972 and 1973. In 1980, similar character models and their bus were used in the movie The Harlem Globetrotters Meet Snow White; although it featured a slightly altered cast to better represent the then-current line-up. In 1998, the series was lampooned as part of Robert Smigel’s “TV Funhouse” on Saturday Night Live. In it, the Globetrotters accidentally went back in time to the first Christmas, instead of their first Christmas together.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.