Tito and Burrito.


Original medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Columbia Pictures
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: Dave Fleischer
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The "Tito & His Burrito" series wasn't a very prominent one in either animated cartoons, where it started, or …

continued below

… comics, where it found its final home. But it ran a long time in comic book back pages, and it's still remembered by a couple of generations of readers.

The pair started out in a cartoon short titled Tito's Guitar, which was released October 30, 1942, by Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems Studio. This was the outfit that had earlier done a long series of very unfaithful adaptations of George Herriman's Krazy Kat and shorter but somewhat less unfaithful adaptations of Billy DeBeck's Barney Google and Al Capp's Li'l Abner, and whose best known home-grown star to date had been the now-forgotten Scrappy. Tito's Guitar was directed by Bob Wickersham, who had worked at the studio for years, first as an animator and then as director, and who also did some artwork in comic books

The creator of the series was producer Dave Fleischer, who had recently joined Screen Gems after the acquisition of his brother Max's studio by Paramount Pictures. Unlike some of Fleischer's earlier work (he'd directed a great number of Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons during the '30s), this pair appeared in only three cartoons. The last of them came out in 1947.

But they were a going concern when the Screen Gems characters were licensed by DC Comics, and therefore became a back-up feature starting in the first issue of DC's Real Screen Comics (Spring, 1945). Other features in Real Screen were Flippity & Flop (similar to Tweety & Sylvester) and The Fox & the Crow, who had by then become the studio's biggest stars, and who naturally got the cover spot.

Tito & His Burrito would probably not make it in comics or cartoons nowadays, because young Tito and his family were common folks living in a rural part of Mexico, and they looked, talked and acted like exactly what they were. Tho stereotyped by today's standards, they weren't treated as objects of scorn, but just as ordinary people in a slightly exotic setting, about like Little Pancho Vanilla over at Dell. In fact, they were no more offensive than Gus Arriola's Gordo, which garnered great praise for exposing English-speaking Americans to Mexican culture. Readers who didn't have the benefit of living in a city where Gordo was available often learned about frijoles, tortillas and other elements of daily life in that area from the footnotes in DC's "Tito & His Burrito" series.

Burrito was Tito's pet. His name didn't refer to a savory delight made from beans, cheese, shredded beef, etc., but to the fact that he was a burro by species, and a small specimen of his kind — thus exposing readers to Spanish word construction.

Tito and friend ran the rest of the 1940s, all through the '50s and into the '60s. The title of Real Screen Comics changed to TV Screen Cartoons in 1959, while Tito & His Burrito continued in its back pages. The final issue was #138 (February, 1961), and there the series ended. It has never been revived or reprinted.


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Text ©2003-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Columbia Pictures.