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King Leonardo and His Short Subjects, debuting on NBC on October 3, 1960, was the second made-for-Saturday morning network cartoon show (Hanna-Barbera's The Ruff and Reddy Show was the first). It was the initial production of Leonardo-Total Television.
King Leonardo was the despotic leonine ruler of the kingdom Bongo Congo, whose main industry was making bongo drums. Leonardo was benevolent but prone to temper flares once in awhile. His prime minister, Odie Cologne (a skunk), produces the kingdom's second major product, perfume. Gangster rodent Biggy Rat and the king's twin brother, Itchy, seek to usurp Leonardo and place Itchy on the throne, making Bongo Congo's coffers readily available to Biggy. But Odie comes in and throws a monkey wrench into their plans.
Two episodes making up a story arc of Leonardo bookend the show. In between is either The Hunter, a clueless canine gumshoe, or Tooter Turtle, a naive terrapin who seeks Mr. Wizard the lizard in granting his wish to be somebody important (only he gets himself in hot water toward the conclusion and has Mr. Wizard bring him home).
The first season was animated by TV Spots; ensuing seasons were made by Gamma Animation in Mexico City. After three seasons on NBC, the show was made available for syndication in 15- or 30-minute installments under the new title The King and Odie. Selected episodes of all features ran concurrently on The Underdog Show and Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. Elements also became part of Dudley Do-Right And Friends in syndication.
- Art Shift: Quite jarring between the seemingly slapdash TV Spots and the rigid but more polished Gamma. Odie's fur was black in the TV Spots episodes and gray in the Gamma episodes.
- Catch Phrase:
- King Leonardo: "Confound it!"
- Biggy Rat: "This is Biggy talkin', see?"
- Itchy: "Okay, Big. I dig."
- Mr. Wizard: "Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drome...time for this one to come home!"
- The Hunter: "That's a joke, son!"
- Expository Theme Song: Second stanza:
Good King Leonardo has his enemies,
Biggy with his pistols and Itchy with his fleas!
They plot against the kingdom to overthrow the king,
Looks like Leonardo has had his royal fling.
But Odie-o Cologne steps in to change the play,
That loyal skunk with skill and spunk comes through to save the day!
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Kenny Delmar, who portrayed Senator Claghorn on radio, gave voice to the Hunter. Jackson Beck, who was the regular voice of Bluto/Brutus in Popeye cartoons, was King Leonardo.
- Punny Name: Odie Cologne (for "eau de cologne"), which isn't surprising as he produces perfumes.
- Shout-Out: The King had two lookalike nephews, Duke and Earl. When he got them confused, Duke would say "I'm Duke. Th-th-that's Earl, folks!"
- Soundtrack Dissonance: When production moved to Gamma Studios, the background music (by Winston Sharples) and sound effects were all borrowed from Famous Studios/Paramount Animation.
- Talking to Himself: Jackson Beck was King Leonardo and Biggy Rat. Allen Swift was Odie, Itchy and the narrator.