LINUS THE LIONHEARTEDOriginal Medium: TV commercial animation
Advertising: Post Hearts of Oats
First Appeared: 1960
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Ask a would-be television censor what was wrong with Saturday morning cartoons of past decades, and the resulting diatribe will probably include the phrase "half-hour commercials". Shows like He-Man and Strawberry Shortcake seemed to exist as much for promoting toys as for entertainment. In fact, there was one '60s show that was made directly from previously-existing
commercial characters. The Post Cereal spokestoons starred in all segments of Linus the Lionhearted, which aired on CBS starting September 26, 1964.
Linus himself, a creation of The Ed Graham Advertising Agency, goes back to 1960, when he was used to promote the Cheerios-like Hearts of Oats (no relation). The product, however, proved less durable than the property. Before long, with Hearts of Oats retired, Linus was reassigned to Crispy Critters miniature animal crackers marketed as "The one and only cereal that comes in the shape of animals",
The back segments starred Lovable Truly (the mailman, or "post"man appearing on Alpha Bits boxes since 1963), So Hi (the Asian stereotype, no more politally correct than The Frito Bandito, who had promoted Rice Krinkles since 1960) and Rory Raccoon (one of many characters, over the years, associated with Post Toasties, that company's version of corn flakes). Halfway through the first season, the company came to its senses and replaced So with Sugar Bear (the Sugar Crisp spokestoon since the '50s). As lead-ins to the more conventional commercials, the stars appeared together as "The Company".
But the show explored aspects of its stars' "lives" that had nothing to do with breakfast cereal. Linus, for example, ruled a jungle kingdom whose subjects included Dinny Kangaroo and Croc Holiday; and Sugar had adventures with antagonists like Granny Goodwitch and Benji Wolf.
Sheldon Leonard (who once played a minor Joe Palooka character in live action) did Linus's voice. Bob McFadden (Cool McCool) was Lovable, So and Rory. Gerry Matthews (mostly a face actress, tho she did do a voice or two in a Rankin/Bass Christmas special featuring Pinocchio) was Sugar in this show, tho Sterling Holloway (Winnie the Pooh) had voiced him in commercials.
After many re-designs over the years, Sugar Bear is the only one of these characters still in use. But the cereal he pushes has been renamed Golden Crisp, because modern advertisers would rather claim their products had been dipped in pure cholesterol than admit they'd ever been touched by tooth-rotting, obesity-generating sugar.
For Post Cereals, income from these characters was a form of "found money", since their development cost had already been footed by the advertising department. The show was renewed for a second season, but not a third. After that, it went into reruns, which continued until the FCC banned "half-hour commercials".