René Fromage and Kit Mambo prepare for a tie.


Original Medium: Television animation
Produced by: Lisberger Studios
First Appeared: 1980
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In 1980, America was caught up in its quadrennial obsession with the Olympic games, and one symptom of its preoccupation was a made-for-TV cartoon. Not for the first time. Only four years earlier, Hanna-Barbera had …

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… responded to Olympic fever by making Scooby-Doo the lead player in a mock-Olympic competition involving Captain Caverman, Snagglepuss, The Great Grape Ape and other characters who'd starred in their shows over the years.

But this producer, Lisberger Studios, a start-up by Steven Lisberger, who later directed Tron, didn't have stars like Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw to compete in its international games, so the characters of the various episodes set within the overall competition were all unknowns. Casting the film with the likes of Rugs Turkell, Dome Turnell, Bolt Jenkins and Tatyana Tushenko was a lot like filling it up with generic funny animals. Not one of them was ever heard of before or since.

Some of the episodes, such as long-distance runners René Fromage (a goat from Eruope) and Kit Mambo (a lioness from Africa) falling in love during the lead-ups, holding hands during the race, and finally tying for the medal, were quite good — but lacking characters the viewers either cared about already or were successfully made to care about by this film, were ultimately unmemorable.

But this subplot does illustrate a couple of points, such as the fact that athletes tended to represent continents rather than individual countries (tho there were a few exceptions, with some representing regions or even individual cities). Also, inter-species romance, while not as rampant as it was in Cow & Chicken, was at least at the level of Spongebob Squarepants, where a crab can have a daughter who is a whale.

Animalympics was made at the behest of NBC, which commissioned it in 1978 with the intention of broadcasting it as two hour-long specials, one each during their broadcast of the winter and summer games. But that was the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and in protest, President Carter dashed the hopes of many real-life young athletes by boycotting the summer games, which were in Moscow. As a result, only the first half of the first special got on the air in America. It appeared on February 1, 1980.

Animalympics was also made for theatrical release. A full version debuted at that year's Miami Film Festival. From there, it achieved world-wide distribution, but never did get distributed in the U.S. But Warner Bros. (Gay Purr-ee, Batman) contracted for the American video rights. It appeared on cable in 1984, and was later released on home video. Warner later acquired full ownership of the movie.

Voices heard in Animalympics include Billy Crystal (heard in Monsters Inc.), Gilda Radner (Witch's Night Out), Harry Shearer (Ned Flanders in The Simpsons) and Michael Fremer. All except Fremer (a writer rather than an actor) are better known for face than voice roles.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Warner Bros.