March 05, 2022

THE SECRET LIVES OF WALDO KITTY

 
THE SECRET LIVES OF WALDO KITTY / THE NEW ADVENTURES OF WALDO KITTY
(NBC, September 6-November 29, 1975)
 
Filmation Associates
 
 
MAIN CAST:
Howard Morris – Waldo Kitty/Cat Man/Robin Cat/The Lone Kitty/Catzan/Captain Hercm various
Jane Webb – Felicia
Allan Melvin – Tyrone, various

 
 
            While most might be more familiar with the 2013 film version starring Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was originally a short story written by James Thurber. First published in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939, the story dealt with the mild-mannered titular character living out heroic fantasies in his head inspired by some mundane aspect of his life in the moment. Those adventures saw him as the pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm, a surgeon performing a rare surgery, a deadly assassin testifying in court, a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a secret suicide mission, and finally facing down a firing squad. The story has been adapted countless times on stage and screen.

The live-action Waldo, Tyrone and Felicia.

            Filmation, finally “getting over [their] aversion to satire” as co-founder Lou Scheimer would put it in his book, Creating the Filmation Generation, decided to take inspiration from the story for their next project. The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty followed a shy and timid cat named Waldo (Howard Morris) who often imagined himself in heroic roles when dealing with the menacing English bulldog, Tyrone (Allan Melvin), which would help him come up with a real solution. These fantasies would alternate between five pop culture parodies: Batman, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Robin Hood and Star Trek (four of which were properties Filmation had or would come to work on). Always present and in need of rescue was Waldo’s girlfriend, Felicia (Jane Webb). Occasionally, Tyrone would be joined by three other dogs to comprise his gang, while Waldo would have either a sparrow or rabbit as a sidekick. What made the show unique was that while the fantasy sequences were traditionally animated, the real-life Waldo and his companions were portrayed by real-life animals in wraparound segments produced by Filmart with animals from Frank Inn, Inc.


The alter-egos of Waldo Kitty.

            The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty debuted on NBC on September 6, 1975. The series was written by Lorna Cook, Bill Danch and Jim Ryan, with music by Ray Ellis (as Yvette Blas) and Norm Prescott (as Jeff Michael) and additional music and sound effects by Horta-Mahana Corp. The theme was written by Jackie Mills and Joyce Taylor and performed in-character by Morris. However, it was a hassle to even get the show made. Filmation’s first headache came with the conception of the show. Layout artist Lorna Smith came up with the concept, fought for it to even be considered for production by the studio, and then for her credit on the series when her role in the equation was seemingly forgotten. NBC had reduced their episode order from 16 to 13, which made the show very unattractive to certain markets for airing. Then, Filmation learned why the adage “never work with children or animals” was coined with the tremendous difficulty they had in wrangling their dog actor for filming, as he was always chasing after the cat actors on set. Finally, Thurber’s widow Helen and Samuel Goldwyn Productions filed suit against Filmation for infringing on her husband’s idea and unfair competition.  The series ultimately proved different enough for the suit to go nowhere, but NBC cancelled it anyway and didn’t even give it a second season of reruns.

One of the VHS covers depicting Waldo rescuing Felicia from Tyrone and his thugs.


            Filmation would later include an edited version of the show in a syndication package with their Groovie Goolies. To remove all comparisons to Walter Mitty, they got rid of the live-action segments and changed the show’s name to The New Adventures of Waldo Kitty. Only three episodes made it to home video between United American Video’s 1989 VHS release and various international releases.
 
 
EPISODE GUIDE:
“Cat Man” (9/6/75) – Waldo—as Cat Man—attempts to get past Tyrone’s friends to rescue Felicia from his clutches.
 
“Catzan of the Apes” (9/13/75) – Waldo—as Catzan—must keep Tyrone from tearing down the jungle in order to make room for a construction project.
 
“The Lone Kitty” (9/20/75) – Waldo—as The Lone Kitty—rises up to rescue a small desert town from bandit Tyrone and his cronies.
 
“Robin Cat” (9/27/75) – Tyrone is sent out after Waldo—as Robin Cat—to stop his stealing of food to give to the poor.
 
“Cat Trek” (10/4/75) – Tyrone chases down Waldo—as Captain Herc—and demands he give up his ship, the Second Prize.
 
“Cat Man Meets the Poochquin” (10/11/75) – Cat Man and Sparrow must rescue Felicia and her uncle from the prison Tyrone—as the Poochquin—locked them up in.
 
“Catzan or Not Catzan” (10/18/75) – Tyrone returns to the jungle to hunt all the animals that lived there, and Catzan must figure out how to get rid of him.
 
“The Lone Kitty Rides Again” (10/25/75) – Tyrone kidnaps Felicia in the desert, prompting The Lone Kitty to ride to her rescue.
 
“Sheriff of Sherwood” (11/1/75) – Tyrone intends to spoil Robin Cat’s day as “sheriff of the day”.
 
“Cat Man Meets the Puzzler” (11/8/75) – Tyrone—as the Puzzler—kidnaps Felicia prompting Cat Man to come rescue her.
 
“Dr. Livingstone, I Perfume?” (11/15/75) – Catzan vows to stop Tyrone before he gets his hands on Dr. Livingstone’s secret expensive perfume-producing oil.
 
“Ping or Pongo” (11/22/75) – Tyrone attempts to scare Captain Herc off of his ship utilizing a hologram of himself.
 
“Chaw the Bullet” (11/29/75) – The Lone Kitty and Pronto must keep a land settlement safe from Tyron and his gang.

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