HECKLE AND JECKLEOriginal Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Terrytoons
First appeared: 1946
Creator: Paul Terry
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Terrytoons owner Paul Terry considered the Heckle & Jeckle series of cartoons the best
his studio ever made. That may be, but considering the esteem in which Terrytoons are held, it's no great honor.
It was Terry's idea to create twin characters, identical in both design and movement — an idea which, amazingly enough, had never before been fully exploited in animation. It had been done in comics, from Rube Goldberg's Mike & Ike to Henry Boltinoff's Dover & Clover, but in animation, this pair preceded Warner's Goofy Gophers; and Disney's Chip 'n' Dale were far from completely identical) There were only two differences between Heckle and Jeckle: the first letters of their names, and the fact that voice actor Dayton Allen provided them with different accents — although which was British and which was Brooklynese, nobody seems to know.
Whichever was who, they made their debut in The Talking Magpies (1946), directed by Mannie Davis (where, incidentally, they were cast as husband and wife), and that title became their nickname. Their calm assumption of victory against any foe, reminiscent of Bugs Bunny, combined with their virulently aggressive nature, reminiscent of Woody Woodpecker, made their series one of Terrytoons' two most popular (the other being Mighty Mouse).
That same year, Heckle & Jeckle began appearing in Terrytoons Comics, which at that time was published by the company that would later become Marvel. Since then, they have been published sporadically in comics from a half-dozen different publishers. Their most recent appearance in that medium was in 1987.
In 1955, Terry sold his studio to CBS and retired, which surprised and angered his long-time employees. He died in 1971. CBS brought Gene Deitch (whose other credits include Gerald McBoing-Boing and Tom & Jerry) in as studio head. The first thing Deitch did was to scrap all of Terrytoons' ongoing characters and start over with new ones, such as Tom Terrific and Sidney the Elephant.
Three years later, Deitch was gone, and some of the old characters were back for a brief encore — but with budgets even lower than they'd been when Terry was running the studio. Heckle & Jeckle proved unable to survive in this altered environment. The series sputtered, sometimes going years between entries. Their last cartoon was Messed-Up Movie Makers (1966).
CBS exploited its Terrytoons properties for years. Heckle & Jeckle had their own show in 1955 and shared one with Mighty Mouse in 1979. Additionally, they appeared as part of Terrytoons cartoon packages that aired on many local stations.
But these venues became sparser as time went on, and by the late 1980s dried up altogether. Heckle & Jeckle, along with all of their Terrytoons contemporaries except Mighty Mouse, have been absent from the airways for years.