Pow Wow the Indian Boy, from a publicity drawing.

POW WOW THE INDIAN BOY

Original medium: Television animation
Produced by: Tempe-Toons
First Appeared: 1949
Creator: Sam Singer
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Pow Wow the Indian Boy, which was first broadcast Sunday, January 30, 1949 on New York's WNBT-TV, had all the faults of its contemporaries in TV animation — not that it had very many, as other than Crusader Rabbit, made-for-television cartoons barely even existed before 1950. But the patterns were already clear. Animation …

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… on a broadcast budget was cheap, crude, almost completely motionless and, of course, monochrome. What's more, this one had another failing of its time, visible only in retrospect. Without its producers apparently intending the least bit of offense or disrespect, it was thoroughly steeped in postwar American racism.

Of course, calling Native Americans "Indians" wasn't so bad — that had been the usual practice for centuries, and there wasn't really a better term in common use. But lumping them all together to depict their legends and lore as the product of a single homogenous culture — even then, anyone giving the matter a moment's thought would have seen how unfair and inaccurate that was; but of course, nobody ever did. Especially when makng minor bits of hastily-produced programming to amuse children and then be forgotten.

Pow Wow the Indian Boy was the friend of all the animals in the woods. It said so right in the theme song. The action came straight out of native folklore, with the boy usually consulting the tribe's medicine man for "Just-So" stories about how the various animals came to assume their most visible characteristics — origins of the turtle's shell, the practice of "playing possum" and the like. The series was the first one created and produced by Sam Singer, who was later responsible for Bucky & Pepito, Courageous Cat and Sinbad Jr.

As a locally-broadcast, pre-1950 TV toon, Pow Wow lasted only six episodes before going out of production for years. He was next seen in 1956 as a cartoon segment on CBS's Captain Kangaroo show, like Tom Terrific and Lariat Sam. 39 five-minute episodes were made for this venue, black and white just like the original half-dozen quarter-hour ones. Screen Gems (Ruff & Reddy) syndicated these cartoons in areas Captain Kangaroo didn't reach, to locally produced kids' shows for airing alongside Clutch Cargo, Col. Bleep and a host of old theatrical cartoons.

Starting in 1958, when Captain Kangaroo dropped the segment, the episodes were syndicated nationwide. They continued this way for years, but eventually faded from view.

— DDM

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Text ©2006-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Tempe-Toons.