black and white photo of Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, Captain Kangaroo, Grandfather Clock, Mister Moose, and Mister Green Jeans

Learn About The Unique TV Cartoon Tom Terrific

We can say that cartoon characters are somehow reflection and extension of our desires – to have superpowers, change in form and state, change events, and make things work according to our liking. That is why cartoons are mostly fictional and typically features heroes and villains. They always feature two opposing forces: good and evil, kindness, and revenge, saving the oppressed and the weak, and making life suitable for humanity.

Kids today perhaps are only familiar with Transformers. But one unique cartoon from long ago can transform himself into anything, any form and any shape long before them. He was Tom Terrific! He has a sidekick dog, and together they were really unique.

The story of Tom Terrific

Tom Terrific, a cartoon series on American television in 1957-1959. Unlike today’s cartoons, which have highly complex and advanced animations, the series was in black and white and in a simple drawing form with rudimentary animations.

The cartoon series created by Gene Deitch and produced by Terrytoons was firstly shown on CBS “Captain Kangaroo”. Terrytoons back then was a company making a big splash in the newer business of made-for-television cartoons.

The making of Tom Terrific

All voices were by Lionel Wilson, and also Tom’s unique boy-like voice. He later voiced Eustace Bagge from the Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog. Cartoonist Jules Feiffer has written some of the dialogues.

“I’m Tom Terrific, greatest hero ever. Terrific is the name for me, coz I am clever. I can be what I wanna be, and if you wanna see, follow and follow me!” And who can remember this catchy intro?

Tom Terrific is composed of twenty-six stories, and each story is divided into five episodes, with a five-minute episode broadcast per day. The first thirteen stories were filmed in 1957, with the second set filmed in the following year.

In many years, Captain Kangaroo rerun the episodes. Since 1962, Captain Kangaroo broadcast Tom Terrific every other week, alternating with Terrytoons’ Lariat Sam.

The series is drawn in a simple black-and-white style reminiscent of children’s drawings, that features a gee-whiz boy hero. Tom lives in a treehouse. With the help of his “thinking cap,” he can transform himself into anything he wanted. His incredible cap also enhances his intelligence.

This boy has a sidekick named Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog. He has an arch-foe named Crabby Appleton, whose motto is, “I’m rotten to the core!”. Some other villains include Instant the Instant Thing King, Captain Kidney Bean, Sweet Tooth Sam the Candy Bandit, and Isotope Feeney the Meany.

During the 1950s, the United Features Syndicate distributed a comic strip made by director Gene Deitch entitled “Terr’ble Thompson!”. He adapted the features of his earlier comic strip in creating the story of Tom Terrific.

Terr’ble Thompson was an adventure of a six-year-old boy who imagined himself to be the “Hero of Hist’ ry” and freely traveled back in time to assist historical figures. Fantagraphics Books published an illustrated book reprinting the adventures of this precursor to Tom Terrific.

Tom Terrific was among its “50 Greatest TV Cartoon Characters”, ranked by TV Guide magazine. There was no available authorized VHS or DVD released of the cartoon series.

Captain Kangaroo

On the other side, Captain Kangaroo was considered the longest-running nationally broadcast children’s television program aired for 29 years.

It was a TV series for children that aired weekday mornings on the American television network CBS.

Captain Kangaroo would tell stories, meet guests, and indulge in silly stunts with regular characters, both humans and puppets, in a loose structure, built around life in the “Treasure House”.

Bob Keeshan, who conceived who based it on “the warm relationship between grandparents and children”. He also played the title character “Captain Kangaroo” more than 9,000 times over the show’s nearly 30-year run.