Saturday, 12 July 2014

Jack E. Cartoon

For every Huckleberry Hound, there’s a Keemar, the Invisible Boy. Keemar was a proposed cartoon series by Format Films that never got off the ground. Huck, of course, did.

All kinds of ideas for cartoon series floated around after Hanna-Barbera proved in the late ‘50s that TV cartoons could be profitable, likely more ideas than actual cartoons that ever appeared on your screen at home. One of them starred Jack E. Leonard, the nightclub comic known as “Fat Jack.” Jack E. appeared in animated form as the Post Cereal Postman in the early ‘60s. Trans-Lux, the people who brought you the “magic bag of tricks” version of Felix the Cat and the “iron in his thighs” Mighty Hercules, came up with the idea of putting Fat Jack in a cartoon series that would be flexible enough to run at any time of the day.

Here’s a story from Sponsor Magazine of December 14, 1964.

Jack E. Leonard to Star in New ‘Adult Western’ Cartoon Series
New York — Starring comic Jack E. Leonard as “the fastest mouth in the West,” Trans-Lux Television Corp. last week unveiled plans for a new cartoon series aimed at adult viewers as well as small fry.
Entitled Fat Jack, Sheriff of Cheyenne, the series is the brain-child of Ernest Pintoff who won an Academy Award for his theatrical short subject, “The Critic.” Commenting on the new series, slated for release in the fall of 1965, Pintoff noted that the cartoon will not only be “out West,” but “way out West.”
In announcing the series, set for 500 episodes, each five minutes in length and filmed in color, a spokesman for Trans-Lux said it may be a contender for prime-time viewing.
It was pointed out that “the series will be aimed at an adult audience although it will have the same appeal for youngsters as do most animated shows. Leonard’s wit and Pintoff’s screen satire, using the familiar western theme as a base, should make this television’s greatest spoof on a universally accepted tradition — the glorious West with all its time-honored clichés.”
Richard Carlton, vice president of Trans-Lux, said the budget for the series is $2 million, adding that Fat Jack will be flexible enough to adapt to network or syndication.
Although Leonard has appeared as a guest on many tv shows, this represents his first participation in a regular tv series. As he put it before an audience of reporters, broadcasters and agency executives, “I’ve made so many pilots in my life that I have my own airport.”

The drawing of Jack E. looks more like it came from Gamma Productions (“Underdog” and “Tennessee Tuxedo”) than the New York-based artists that Trans-Lux employed on Felix and Hercules.

The proposed series got a few mentions in the trade press as if it were a fait d’accomplis. But none were as elaborate as this syndicated column that appeared in newspapers on March 18, 1965.

Inside Television
“The Fastest Mouth in the West" is the sub-title of Jack E. Leonard's new 5 - minute color cartoon series, which will make its debut this Fall. The actual title is “Fat Jack, Sheriff of Cheyenne” a “way out” Western satire, tailored to fit the character and talents of one of television's fastest wits popularly nicknamed “Fat” Jack Leonard.
The name suits Jack perfectly. “So I’m fat,” says Jack. “Do you realize that inside every fat man there’s a skinny man waiting to get out? Except for me, of course. Inside me, there’s a fat man waiting to get out!”v The Oscar winner, Ernest Pintoff, created the cartoon series for Jack when he saw the fan mail Jack got after one of his many appearances on the Johnny Carson show.
JACK HAD done a nifty Charleston with Eva Gabor and the audience had gone wild. Later, he said, he started his show business career as a dancing teacher, went professional, and for several years toured the theater circuit, ending up doing his dancing act in the British Isles.
“The people there loved me—they’d never seen a fat man doing this ‘wild’ dance, and bookings kept me there for three years. But New York is my first love, and I realized I wanted to do more than just Charleston so I returned.”
Today, Jack has more than 650 tv appearances behind him, plus credits in the best clubs and theaters here and abroad. His comedy role in the Jerry Lewis’ starrer, “The Disorderly Orderly” proves he's become a fine actor even without his rapid fire witticisms, and such stock openers of his act as, “Greetings opponents!”
“I'M PROBABLY the only comic who ever made a comeback without going away.”
In the series, which will certainly appeal to both adults and children, “Fat Jack” hangs out at the Golden Pink Saloon, loves “Pretty” the shapely owner of the joint. Then there’s “Pronto,” Jack’s Indian sidekick who speaks with an Oxford accent, Benny Bingo, a professional wisecracker, and Sheldon, a Chinese “gorilla" and expert on the cherry soda torture.

Broadcasting magazine of March 15, 1965, in reporting on the coming Television Films Exhibit in Washington, D.C., reported that one of the industry’s trends was still cartoons. It gave an in depth report on what was being offered for sale to local stations and the animated Leonard series was on the list. It also revealed “For later this spring, Trans-Lux TV expects to release two other children’s oriented series, a five-minute cartoon property and a half-hour program” but wasn’t specific.

Here’s a rundown of the cartoons being offered by syndicators at the exhibit:

ABC Films: “Casper the Friendly Ghost” (176).
American International Television: “Adventures of Sinbad Jr.” (130).
Embassy Pictures Corp.: “Dodo—The Kid from Outer Space” (104).
Hollywood Television Service: “The Storytoon Express” (30).
King Features Syndicate: “Popeye” (150), “Beetle Bailey” (50), “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith” (50), “Krazy Kat” (50).
Medallion Television Enterprises: “Medallion Cartoons” (130).
MGM-TV: MGM Cartoons.
National Telefilm Associates: Cartoons (550).
NBC Films: “Astroboy” (52).
Official Films: Cartoons (41).
Walter Reade-Sterling: “Cap’n Sailorbird Cartoons” (184).
Screen Gems: “Ruff and Reddy” (156), Hanna-Barbera Cartoons: Touche, Wally, Lippy (156).
Seven Arts Associated: “Out of the Inkwell” (100), Looney Toons Cartoons (191).
Trans-Lux: “Fat Jack, Sheriff of Cheyenne” (200), “The Mighty Hercules” (130), “Felix the Cat” (260).
United Artists Associated: Warner Bros. cartoons (337), Popeye cartoons (234), “The Tales of Wizard of Oz” (130), “The New Adventures of Pinocchio” (130).
Warner Bros. Television: “Warner Bros. Cartoons Series ‘64” (100).

In addition, ABC Films was offering a half-hour cartoon series of 52 segments—in black and white, while American International was trying to find another animated show to sell. Seven Arts “also has in various stages of development a series of 150 Laurel and Hardy five minute cartoons in color and 100 five-minute animated stores from the Old and New Testaments, Adventures of the Bible.”

Dodo made it onto North American airwaves, but Fat Jack didn’t. Today, you can enjoy his animated work in old commercials on the internet. This one features the drawing at the top of the post.


  1. If anything, it saved Trans-Lux from pouring anymore money into another cartoon for a while until Speed Racer showed up.

  2. That's a shame - "Fat Jack" seems like it could have been another Roger Ramjet. Wonder if there was at least a pilot produced.

    And glancing over that Broadcasting syndication offerings list, I noticed that the KFS Popeye episode count was short seventy cartoons (220 were produced), and that the aforementioned Roger Ramjet,which debuted in syndication that year, was omitted.

    1. That is rather odd.

      I'm a bit familiar with Pintoff's work myself and the look of Fat Jack kinda reminded me of his 1959 film The Violinist. Pintoff certainly comes from that modern cartoon camp that otherwise UPA explored before.

    2. I'd love to have seen Irv Spector do a story for Jack E. They might have been a good match.

  3. I remember very well (plus it's on youtube). On What's my Line? circa 1962, Jack E. Leonard publisized that he was starring in an animated series, ''The Mouse That Roared".