Astronut and Oscar.


Original Medium: Television animation
Produced by: Terrytoons
First appeared: 1964
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In the early years of the Space Age, it was easy to find an audience for anything that reminded people of astronauts and space travel. In newspaper comics, Sky Masters filled that niche. In comic books, that's when Adam Strange was most popular. Animated cartoons …

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… had things like Astronut, which Terrytoons produced during the early 1960s.

Astronut wasn't given a star's position right off the bat, as had been done with Hector Heathcote, Clint Clobber and other Terrytoons of roughly the same period. His first appearance was made as a oneshot character in an episode of Deputy Dawg's TV show. But he'd apparently been marked for stardom from the beginning, because he next turned up in a series of theatrically-released cartoon shorts. The first of them was Brother from Outer Space. Its exact release date isn't recorded very reliably, but it came out in 1964, probably during March.

Astronut wasn't, as might be surmised from the name, an astronaut like those in the newspapers, i.e., one originating on Earth. No, he'd crossed the cosmos in the other direction. He was a little green guy who got around in a teeny weeny space ship that looked like it may have been at most marginally comfortable if only one "person" was inside. But once made a star, he needed a supporting character, if only to bounce dialog off of. That purpose was served with the addition of Oscar Mild , an ordinary Earth human living in an ordinary suburban house, who became his pal.

Another thing that doesn't seem to be recorded very reliably is who did Astronut's voice. Credit is given to Dayton Allen (Lariat Sam), Lionel Wilson (Tom Terrific) and Bob McFadden (Frankenberry). McFadden (who also did Milton the Monster) is the only one credited with Oscar's voice.

No one particular director is associated with Astronut — his cartoons were done by the "old Terrytoons Hands", an amophous group of directors, including Connie Rasinski, Art Butsch and Dave Tendlar, who'd been jointly responsible for Mighty Mouse, Dinky Duck and the rest of the Terrytoons characters over the years.

During the rest of the 1960s, Astronut and Oscar appeared in over a dozen cartoons. They were also on TV — The Astronut Show debuted in syndication on August 23, 1965. It was a typical half-hour cartoon show of the time, consisting of three segments, each about as long as a theatrical cartoon. Stars of the back segments included Sidney the Elephant, Luno and Hashimoto-San. During the following decade, the show was brought back, but with other back segments, such as James Hound and Sad Cat.

By that time, the theatrical series had ground to a halt, just like the other Terrytoons. Astronut remained part of the syndicated packages of Terrytoons shorts that were used in kids' TV shows alongside Popeye, Woody Woodpecker and the rest. But for the past decade or two, the old Terrytoons haven't been seen on TV at all.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Viacom, Inc.