Some cartoons were popular and desirable—Hanna Barbera’s Touché Turtle/Wally Gator package for one—and then there were others which, today, languish in obscurity. One of those is Rod Rocket.
Rod Rocket seems to have been the brainchild of Jim Morgan. I presume it’s the same Morgan was involved in a variety of radio and TV ventures; for example, Morgan-Forman Productions put together a show starring Pinky Lee. Morgan’s name surfaces in connection with a company called Space Age Productions. Rod Rocket wasn’t the company’s only venture. Morgan announced a pilot had been completed for “Pupsville USA,” starring live, costumed dogs with lip-synched voices (Variety, July 17, 1962) and something called “The Man Who Sings To Birds” (Variety, Oct. 23, 1962).
But back to young Mr. Rocket. Here’s a good sampling of his history from 1962:
Rod Rocket—This animated cartoon series of five -minute programs deals with two small boys and their adventures with a rocket in space. Space Age Productions has completed five episodes. Jim Morgan is producer. (Broadcasting, Feb. 19, 1962).
Sugar-coated science ■ Space Age Productions, Hollywood, has produced several pilot films for a space- adventure series titled Rod Rocket. Animated color cartoons detail the adventures of the teenage hero in outer space in five - minute installments, five of which tell a complete story. Each program includes at least one "space fact" which is described on an information sheet available to youngsters on request, affording a merchandising angle for sponsors. (Broadcasting, May 7, 1962).
Space Age Productions' prexy Jim Morgan has set 115 more tele- film segments of "Rod Rocket," animated series. (Variety, July 12, 1962).
Jim Morgan Adds 2
Prexy Jim Morgan of Space Age Productions in readying "Rod Rocket," animated telefilm adventures of a boy in space, has signed Dick Robbins as writer and Jack Meakin as musical director (Variety, July 20, 1962).
Set 10 ‘Rocket’ Segs
Jim Morgan, prexy of Space Age Productions, has authorized launching of ten episodes of "Rod Rocket," tv cartoon series written by Dick Robbins, for syndication. (Variety, July 31, 1962).
3 In TV Rocked
Jim Morgan has set in his "Rod Rocket" telefilm series Hal Smith, Sam Edwards and Pat Blake. (Variety, Aug. 7, 1962).
Sell 130 'Rockets'
Chuck Forman, sales vice president of Space Age Productions, discloses 130 episodes of "Rod Rocket" animated telefilm series has been sold to WNEW, New York; WTTG, Washington; KMBC, Kansas City; KOVR, Stockton- Sacramento; WTVR, Peoria; WTCN, Minneapolis - St. Paul; KPAC, Port Arthur, Tex.; KGNC, Amarillo, Tex.; and KPTV, Portland. According to Jim Morgan, company's prexy, negotiations are on with foreign [broadcasters]. (Variety, Oct. 11, 1962).
'Space Dictionary' Promo For 'Rod Rocket' Cartoon
"Space Dictionary," featuring latest information on [future?] travel, will be a promotional give-away of Space Age Productions five-a-week cartoon, “Rod Rocket.” A booklet for sponsors and stations will be distributed around Jan. 1, when the syndicated juvenile show starts nationally. WNEW-TV is the New York outlet. . (Radio-TV Daily, Oct. 24, 1962).
'Red Rocket' at ½ Market Of Its Production Orbit
West Coast Bureau of RADIO TV DAILY
Hollywood —Completion of XX segs of "Red Rocket," video cartoon series for national syndication, has been announced by Morgan, Space Age Productions prexy, bringing the total to XX completed shows. Total of XX shows will be produced for a full year's supply The strip is prepared for five-a-week issue in three and a half minute segs, each week completing a complete adventure. A 15 minute episode is also prepared for one-a-week screening. (Radio-TV Daily, Oct. 31, 1962, numbers unreadable).
Space Adds Just That
Space Age Productions' prexy Jim Morgan has expanded its Hollywood offices. Firm makes syndicated “Red Rocket” [cartoons]. (Variety, Nov. 7, 1962).
Desilu 'Rocket' Distrib
Desilu Sales Inc. has acquired distribution rights to "Rod Rocket," space age cartoon series of 130 three-and-one-half min. episodes produced by Morgan-Foreman Productions [sic]. (Variety, Nov. 19, 1962).
New space completions ■ Ten new segments of Red Rocket, an animated cartoon series for tv, have been completed by Space Age Productions, Los Angeles. A total of 130 are planned for a half -year's supply. Plans call for five 3 1/2- minute segments comprising a complete story each week. The series is also available in a 15- minute, once-a-week format. (Broadcasting, Dec. 10, 1962).
Jim Morgan, Space Age Productions prexy, in from Mexico City location filming of "Rod Rockets." (Variety, Dec. 11, 1962).
SIB Productions head Walter Bien has delivered 14 segs of "Rod Rocket" series to Desilu for distribution. Lou Scheimer directed. (Variety, July 26, 1963).Bien went on to produce Tom and Jerry cartoons with Chuck Jones for MGM before running out of money in 1965 (MGM then took over the production). Scheimer had co-founded Filmation in 1962 to make TV commercials. “Rod Rocket” was the company’s first animated cartoon series.
12 More “Rockets”
Walter Bien reports his SIB Co. will make 12 more "Rod Rocket" vidpix segments for Desilu distribution, making 26 in all. Director Lou Scheimer starts shooting today (Variety, Aug. 1, 1963).
Why the change from Morgan to Bien and Scheimer? Historian Jerry Beck has leafed through Scheimer’s autobiography. His note to me:
[I]n Lou Scheimer's autobiography, on SIB he says: "They were calling themselves SIB Productions in their logo, but in the trade papers like Variety they were Space Age Productions."SIB was set up in 1960; Bien was involved at the time. I’ve found nothing that states Morgan was ever a part of it. Perhaps SIB sub-contracted from Morgan. Anyways...
Scheimer's book also mentions that that Rod Rocket started at a studio called True Line run by Lou Livingston and Marcus Lipsky (who owned the Reddi-Whip whipped cream company). True Line was disorganized and Scheimer and Hal Sutherland (who had also worked there) decided to do the show themselves—as Filmation.
Whether any of the Morgan versions of the show, seemingly produced in Mexico, made it to air is unclear. But the writer and actors he used were all credited in cartoons with Filmation’s name on it. Musical director Jack Meakin didn’t make the final cut, at least in the one cartoon you can watch below. SIB saved money by licensing the Capitol Hi-Q library which was heard in all the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons (since you want to know, the cue playing as the professor explains his glass invention is ‘EM-116B Lite Mechanical’ by Phil Green).
Well, we can’t delay this any longer. Watch an episode for yourself. The best way to be entertained by this thing is by turning it into a drinking game every time Hal Smith’s kid voice says “Gallopin’ galaxies!”
Amazingly, I found listings for this show as late as 1986 in Brazil. By 1988, TV-Radio Age reported the distribution rights to the show were owned by the Peter Rodgers Organization which, today, syndicates old episodes of “Queen For a Day,” which had been produced by Jim Morgan.
Another little mystery surrounds the character drawings you see in the post, graciously supplied by Chris Sobieniak. They’re from a book issued in 1969 and credited to Jiro Enterprises. What was Jiro? Beats me. I cannot find any reference to the company, other than the same one-line sentence that came from who-knows-where and regurgitated on multiple web sites. If anyone has any concrete answers, as opposed to rumours or “I believe”s, let me know. Fans of weak cartoon series everywhere will salute you.