JIMINY CRICKETOriginal Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: Ward Kimball
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Quite a few Walt Disney animated features have yielded ongoing characters for the company to exploit. Scamp, from Lady & the Tramp, starred in a long-running newspaper strip, as well as in comic books from the 1950s through the '70s. Mad Madame Mim, from The Sword in the Stone, became a comic book character, and is still seen occasionally in parts of
Europe and Asia. Timon & Pumbaa, from The Lion King, had their own TV show. By far, the best known and most versatile of these feature spin-offs is Jiminy Cricket.
Jiminy was introduced in Disney's second feature, Pinocchio, released Feb. 23, 1940. He represented a character identified in author Carlo Collodi's original book version only as "the talking cricket", and served as Pinoke's conscience — a role that got him righteously squashed in the book, but catapulted him to stardom in animation.
Jiminy was designed by master animator Ward Kimball at the direction of Disney himself, who thought there was something missing from the Pinocchio film as it was originally proposed. Apparently, Jiminy was it, because many commentators think he pretty much stole the movie. The Cricket's voice was provided by Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards, a minor radio actor of the 1930s and '40s who is best remembered for this role.
It was rare back then for a character to appear in more than one Disney feature. Mickey Mouse and Goofy were in two each during the 1940s and Donald Duck was in three, but they all rose to stardom in the cartoon shorts. Other than José Carioca, who, in the U.S. at least, took a straight road to near-oblivion after co-starring with Donald in Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros and making a walk-on in Melody Time, Jiminy is the only feature-original to appear in more than one during Disney's lifetime. His other role in theatrically-released features was as the announcer in Fun & Fancy Free, released Sept. 27, 1947.
He reprised the announcer role in the variously-titled hour-long prime-time Disney TV series, which started in the mid-1950s. The company frequently chopped up its old cartoons to make themed TV shows (e.g., pulling Valentine's Day or Christmas sequences from them); and in these, Jiminy Cricket often served as master of ceremonies. Later, he was largely replaced in that role by Ludwig von Drake (who also replaced him as announcer in the TV version of Fun & Fancy Free).
He also starred in the first significant body of animation the Disney studio produced specifically for TV — a long series of segments for The Mickey Mouse Club, in which he imparted knowledge to the show's young viewers about books, nature, safety, or life in general. Many of these were animated by Jim Davis, best known for drawing The Fox & the Crow for DC Comics. As far as production values go, these segments far outshine Tom Terrific, Ruff & Reddy and other contemporary non-Disney TV toons — but they didn't make as big a hit with audiences; and they look pretty cheesy compared to Disney's other animation. Nonetheless, they're still seen occasionally on cable TV's Disney Channel.
Jiminy started turning up in comic books during the 1950s, often drawn by veteran funny animal artist Al Hubbard, who also did Chip'n'Dale, Mary Jane & Sniffles, and many other Dell comics based on licensed animated characters. There, Jiminy did two main types of story — some based on his Mickey Mouse Club role, presenting factual material in an entertaining way; and some in which he travelled from place to place and occasionally interacted with other minor Disney characters, such as Li'l Bad Wolf and Thumper (from Bambi).
Jiminy was most recently seen in Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), but he'll undoubtedly turn up again.