February 14, 2015


(CBS, September 12, 1970-October 16, 1971)

Hanna-Barbera Productions, CBS Productions

Nancy Wible – Granny
Don Messick - Dribbles

For the history of the Harlem Globetrotters, check out the post here.

            CBS executive Fred Silverman secured the rights to the Harlem Globetrotters in the hopes to bring their zany antics from the court to the small screen and maybe attract some of their fans to the network. Turning to Hanna-Barbera, the result was Harlem Globetrotters.

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 booksMilton 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.

EPISODE GUIDE (the series was never released, making episode data hard to come by):
Season 1:
“The Great Geese Goof-Up” (9/12/70) – The team mistakenly believes a mad scientist has turned Geese into a kangaroo, who happens to be wanted for a jewel theft.

“Football Zeros” (9/19/70) – The team takes the place of a delayed team in a charity football game while two criminals plan to make off with the proceeds.

“Hold That Hillbilly” (9/26/70) – In order to stop a feud and allow their game to get underway, the team must unite the only two eligible members of the fighting families.

“Bad News Cruise” (10/3/70) – The team takes a cruise to Hawaii on a ship involved in a race for a contract against another ship with a despicable crew.

“Rodeo Duds” (10/10/70) – The team enters a local rodeo in order to help a poor family get the money they need to pay off their mortgage.

“Double Dribble Double” (10/17/70) – A mad scientist performs experiments on the team when they come to his house after their bus gets stuck.

“Heir Loons” (10/24/70) – Bobby Joe gains an inheritance that his crooked cousin would love to get his hands on.

“From Scoop to Nuts” (10/31/70) – The team decides to help a struggling newspaper get back on its feet in order to get their exhibition game back on.

“What a Day for a Birthday” (11/7/70) – Granny unknowingly borrows the money the team saved for her birthday present forcing the team to figure out ways to raise more quickly.

“It’s Snow Vacation” (11/14/70) – The team wants to help their friend Sam fix up his ski resort, but Sam’s competition wants to keep that from happening.

“The Great Ouch Doors” (11/21/70) – A youth center asks the team to calm down their clientele through sportsmanship before the kids’ behavior forces the center to be shut down.

“Hooray for Hollywood” (11/28/70) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE

“Shook Up Sheriff” (12/5/70) – The team arrives to help Wally Weakness raise money for his sheriff campaign in order to keep his opponent and his gang from winning the election.

“Gone to the Dogs” (12/12/70) – The team believes Dribbles is jealous of the dog they’ve been asked to babysit.

“The Wild Blue Yonder” (12/19/70) – In order to pay off the bills on the airplane they won in a raffle, the team sets out to open their own airline.

“Long Gone Gip” (1/2/71) – Believing he’s caused Pabs to never play again, Gip leaves the team.

Season 2:

“A Pearl of a Game” (9/11/71) – The team offers to help a private eye find the giant pearl that was stolen from the museum right under his nose.

“Nothing to Moon About” (9/18/71) – The team is invited to a space center to play an exhibition game in a dome that duplicates the gravity of the moon.

“Pardon My Magic” (9/25/71) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE

“Granny’s Royal Ruckus” (10/2/71) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE

“Soccer to Me” (10/9/71) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE

“Jungle Jitters” (10/16/71) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.

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