MAGILLA GORILLAOriginal Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1964
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Magilla Gorilla came years after the pioneers of TV animation, such as Crusader Rabbit and Tom Terrific. And yet, in one respect (if not a very "respectable" one) he was a pioneer in his own right. In developing the character, Hanna-Barbera collaborated with Ideal Toys. Thus, when the show debuted (in syndication, on January 14, 1964), they were ready to roll with licensed tie-ins. Within a couple of decades, television animation was to become notorious for that sort of built-in merchandising — some said such '80s shows as He-Man, Jem and Rainbow Brite
were nothing but half-hour commercials. The trend toward fully coordinated merchandising blitzes started with The Magilla Gorilla Show.
Magilla was a resident of Peebles Pet Store. Mr. Peebles, the owner, had been trying with increasing desperation to sell him since the lovable anthropoid was a baby. Magilla's asking price got lower and lower, as the big ape spent his days eating up most of the store's profits. People would occasionally buy Magilla for various purposes (such as to turn loose and hunt down as a trophy, or for use as an experimental animal), but what with one mishap or another he'd always wind up back at the store by the end of each cartoon. The only one who actually wanted him for a pet was a little girl named Ogee, but she could never scrape together enough money, no matter how inexpensive he got. Why Peebles never hit on the idea of simply giving Magilla to Ogee was never satisfactorily explained. Peebles's voice was provided by Howard Morris (Atom Ant, Gerald McBoing-Boing), Ogee's by Jean VanderPyl (Wilma Flintstone, Rosie in The Jetsons), and Magilla's by Allan Melvin (various voices in Smurfs and TaleSpin).
The standard half-hour cartoon show format of the time was three segments, each about as long as a theatrical cartoon, and each with a different star. Magilla Gorilla's back-up segments were Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse, and Ricochet Rabbit. In 1965, the latter switched places with Breezly & Sneezly, a back-up on Peter Potamus. The combination was popular enough to be picked up by ABC on January 1, 1966 — a rare example of a syndicated show moving to a network, rather than vice versa.
Following standard practice of the time, Magilla began starring in a Gold Key comic book shortly after his TV show began. The first issue was dated May, 1964. In #3, he ran against Yogi Bear for president, putting him in company with such other toon candidates for the Oval Office as Betty Boop and Andy Gump. The comic book lasted ten issues, the last of which was dated December, 1968. A later series from Charlton was even more short-lived — five issues, November, 1970 through July, 1971. Hanna-Barbera's next comic book licensor was Marvel, which gave him only one issue, dated March, 1979.
Magilla hasn't been seen very often in the past couple of decades — just a syndicated rerun here and there. But the character is still popular among fans of vintage Hanna-Barbera animation. Considering how many toon outlets there are on cable TV nowadays, he's not likely to remain unseen forever.