Eye For Film >> Movies >> Top Cat: Volume 1 (1961) Film Review
Long before The Simpsons secured a primetime slot on US television came The Flintstones, the first cartoon to be aimed at adults and, when it proved a success in 1960, Hanna-Barbera created Top Cat in 1961 and – despite only one season of 30 episodes being made – Manhattan’s coolest cat went on to enjoy worldwide success across the following decades.
Based loosely on characters from The Phil Silvers Show – particularly TC himself, given Phil Silvers’ like tones by Arnold Strang and his sidekick Benny The Ball, who was voiced by Phil Silvers Show regular Maurice Gosfield, the gang also included the Fancy Fancy (John Stephenson giving it some serious Cary Grant), Choo Choo (Marvin Caplin), Spook and The Brain (both voiced by the very aptly named Leo De Lyon).
The six episodes on this DVD release are the first of the season and, as always, see TC attempting to line his pockets with some cash while trying to stay out of trouble with neighbourhood cop Officer Dibble (Allen Jenkins).
Watching the series again today, it is striking how ‘talkie’ the episodes are. The vocabulary is definitely aimed at adults – where on kids’ TV will you hear the words ‘stentorian’ and ‘finagle’ this week? – but this isn’t a bad thing and might encourage a bit of chat if you’re watching it with youngsters. What also strikes is the simplistic charm of the animation. Originally shown in black and white, the characters are drawn in bold, bright lines, and though the animation is minimal compared to more modern series, it has real character – from the blinking eyes of the alley gang to the wonderful ‘speed swirls’ the cartoonists use when a character zips off somewhere.
All the episodes are uniformly entertaining, and feature great supporting characters – particularly the smiling horse in The $1,000,000 Derby and the Mutley-esque Griswald in The Missing Heir - and while they have dated in one or two places, the humour is mostly situational, so has stood the test of time.
While probably most appealing to adults looking for a trip down memory lane, TC still has enough laidback wit to charm a younger generation.Reviewed on: 19 Oct 2007