Cover of the first Calvin & the Colonel comic book.


Original medium: Television animation
Produced by: Kayro Productions
First Appeared: 1961
Creators: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (writers and voice actors)
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Starting with The Flintstones in 1960, American TV had a brief fling with animation in prime time. Old-time radio stars Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll took that as a cue to revive their once-popular …

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Amos & Andy concept — but this time, to populate it with funny animals instead of racial stereotypes, which had by then gone very much out of fashion. Calvin & the Colonel debuted on ABC, on October 3, 1961. It occupied the 8:30 PM slot (7:30 Central Time) on Tuesday nights, where its competition wasn't Quick Draw McGraw and King Leonardo. It was the live-action hits Dobie Gillis and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Calvin Burnside (voiced by Correll) was a big, brown bear, amiable but not very bright, pretty much like Andy Brown from Amos & Andy. Colonel Montgomery J. Klaxon (Gosden) was a fox, which in funny animal shorthand meant he was clever and not very trustworthy, just like George "Kingfish" Stevens, the character that had taken over the co-starring role from Amos. Kingfish's wife, Sapphire, was represented in the cartoon version by Maggie Belle, whose voice was done by Virginia Gregg (Tarra in The Herculoids). Her Sister Sue Culpepper was Beatrice Kay, a face actress who lacks other voice credits. Paul Frees (Ludwig von Drake, Dinky Duck) played Oliver Wendell Clutch, a slippery lawyer much like Amos & Andy's Calhoun.

The show was produced by Kayro Productions, better known for such live-action sitcoms as The Munsters. Kayro farmed out the animation to Creston Studios, which a few years earlier had worked on a Crusader Rabbit revival. (No connection to Jay Ward, who was no longer involved with Crusader.)

Calvin & the Colonel never caught on like Amos & Andy had — in fact, it lasted only a fraction of a season (six episodes, to be exact) on prime time before its first cancellation, which came after the November 7 episode. ABC continued it in January, as part of its Saturday morning schedule, for another 20 episodes, ending with the one aired June 9, 1962. After that, it went a second season in reruns, but has seldom been seen since.

There were a few minor spin-offs, such as a board game put out by a minor game publisher called Sackson, and a comic book from Dell. The comic book lasted a mere two issues, both of which came out in 1962.

It's well remembered, however, probably because of the funny scripts, combined with a concept sound enough to have made Amos & Andy one of the great classics of old-time radio. Maybe the public wasn't interested in funny animals standing in for racial minorities. Or maybe, despite the wild success of The Flintstones, the day of prime-time animation had simply not yet arrived.


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Text ©2002-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Kayro Productions.