Fraidy with past lives.


Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Filmation
First Appeared: 1975
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Fraidy Cat was one scared kitty. He was practically hysterical with fear, which gripped him every moment, morning to night. What did a cat, who had nine lives, have to be afraid of? Especially a cartoon cat, for whom the old saying was literally true? Very simple. In earlier stages of his existence, when he'd had lives to spare, he'd taken death no more seriously than does the average superhero. But at the time of his Filmation (Sport Billy, Original Ghostbusters) TV series, which began …

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… Saturday, September 6, 1975 on ABC, he'd used up eight of them. Currently living the one to which there was no return, he found the possibility of getting killed deadly serious.

As if this existential crisis weren't bad enough, Fraidy was haunted by his past lives. Whenever he mentioned a number from one through eight — or any word that sounded like one — the appropriate ghost would appear, to torment him with reminders of his mortality. The word "nine" would call forth a storm cloud in the shape the numeral nine, which would chase him around, trying to zap him with bolts of lightning, thus bringing about the expected conclusion to his story.

But Fraidy's past lives weren't simple iterations of his current one. They started with Cave Cat, who even had a pet dinosaur, Ann, and proceeded through the pirate Captain Kitt, the western bad guy Billy the Kit, and the appropriate number of others. One of them was Jasper Catdaver, who had been associated with an undertaker during life, and was always hoping to expedite the inevitable transition Fraidy was destined to go through eventually.

Fraidy was a segment of Uncle Croc's Block, patterned after the old children's shows where a live-action host would show cartoons. Other series shown by "Uncle Croc" included M.U.S.H., obviously a parody of the long-running '70s TV show M.A.S.H. (the initials stood for "Mangy Unwanted Shabby Heroes") and Wacky & Packy, about a time-displaced prehistoric guy and his pet elephant.

Veteran voice man Allen Oppenheimer (Mighty Mouse, Dracula Sr. in The Drak Pack) spoke for Fraidy. Several of the ghosts were voiced by another veteran voice man, Lennie Weinrib (Inch High, both Roland and Ratfink).

In terms of the darkness of its premise, Fraidy rivalled Li'l Bad Wolf (if not Johnny the Homicidal Maniac) — but in longevity he wasn't even close (tho of the two, he was closer to Johnny). Uncle Croc's Block, originally an hour-long show, was first cut in half, then dropped altogether as of February 14, 1976 — not even a whole season into its run. Reportedly, it was such a spectacular failure that it damaged future business relations between the network and the producer.

Of all Croc's cartoon segments, only Fraidy had any continued existence. A few years later, his cartoons were packaged with Waldo Kitty and other Filmation properties, and marketed as The Groovy Goolies & Friends. But he's hard to find in any form today.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Filmation.