George, Ursula and Shep.


Original Medium: Television animation
Produced by: Jay Ward
First Appeared: 1967
Creator: Allan Burns
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George of the Jungle, Jay Ward's spoof of Tarzan, has left quite an impression on his Baby Boom viewers — especially considering only seventeen episodes were made.

George is so dumb, he thinks …

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… his elephant, Shep, is a dog — so dumb, he doesn't know his mate, Ursula (whom he calls "Fella"), is female — so dumb, his Oxford-accented ape companion, Ape, often rolls his eyes at the futility of explaining anything to the thick-headed lout. What the movie version of Tarzan sounds like, with his broken English, George is.

George's particular brand of broken English was provided by voice actor Bill Scott, who also co-produced the series, and whose other voice credits include Mr. Peabody and Dudley Do-Right). Ursula (aka "Fella") is voiced by June Foray (Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Granny, from the Tweety & Sylvester series) and Ape by Paul Frees (Ludwig von Drake and Boris Badenov). Daws Butler, whose voice credits include Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and dozens of others, played many of the incidental characters.

George of the Jungle was the first Jay Ward half-hour since Rocky And His Friends (1959) to debut with an entirely new cast of characters, and no segments recycled from early shows. Instead of reprising Aesop & Son or Fractured Fairy Tales, as Hoppity Hooper had done, its back-up segments were Tom Slick (about an intrepid racecar driver) and Super Chicken (Ward's only superhero parody). As for George himself, it was writer Allan Burns who had the basic idea for him, but he underwent considerable modification in development.

George has made very few forays into media other than TV animation. In comic books, he appeared in America's Best TV Comics, a oneshot produced in 1967 by Marvel Comics to promote ABC's new Saturday morning lineup; and in two issues of his own comic, published in 1969 by Gold Key. And in 1997, Brendan Fraser starred in a live-action version, directed by Sam Weisman, with Leslie Mann as Ursula and John Cleese as the voice of Ape.

But those 17 animated episodes keep being rerun on TV. After being syndicated for decades, their regular viewers must have memorized them by now. But in 2007, long after Jay Ward's studio went out of business, new episodes were made for airing on Cartoon Network (Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo). Starting June 29 of that year, Lee Tockar (several voices in The Wacky World of Tex Avery) did George's voice, Brittney Irvin (Katie in Scary Godmother) did Ursula's, and Paul Dobson (Doctor Doom in 21st century Fantastic Four) did Ape's, in 26 new episodes. With the available George animation more than doubled, the franchise should have fuel for a few more decades.


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Text ©2000-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jay Ward Productions.