PETER POTAMUSOriginal Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1964
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
By the mid-1960s, the Hanna-Barbera studio had an impressive number of hits under its belt — The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons and other long-lasting properties had all hit the screen by then. Compared to that stellar crowd, Peter
Potamus is a relative no-name. But he's still well remembered by people of a certain age, and from those who know him, he still gets high points for audience appeal.
Peter was a big, purple hippopotamus, dressed like an African explorer, who sounded like comedian Joe E. Brown. (Many Hanna-Barbera characters sounded like real actors, e.g., Doggie Daddy (from the Augie Doggie series) sounded like Jimmy Durante and Wally Gator sounded like Ed Wynn.) He was mostly a friendly, genial guy, but when the situation called for it, he could let fly with his Hurricane Hippo Holler, which was capable of stunning anybody in the vicinity, and causing a reasonable level of property damage. His sidekick was So-So, a monkey. Together, they'd tour the world in a time-traveling balloon, having adventures wherever and whenever they went.
The Peter Potamus Show debuted on September 16, 1964, as a syndicated series. It was a typical half-hour kids' cartoon show of the time, divided into three segments. Peter starred in the first, and the other two featured Breezly & Sneezly (a polar bear/seal duo who later moved to Magilla Gorilla's show, replacing Ricochet Rabbit) and Yippee, Yappee & Yahooey (three dogs patterned after the Three Musketeers).
Because of erroneous information released years later by Hanna-Barbera's publicity department, several standard reference works on film and animation list Hal Smith (Goliath in Davey & Goliath, Swampy in Clutch Cargo) as Peter Potamus's voice. The actual voice man, animation scholar Mark Evanier notes, is Daws Butler (Cap'n Crunch, Quick Draw McGraw), with Don Messick (Scooby-Doo, narrator on Hong Kong Phooey) as So-So. Breezly and Sneezly were Howard Morris (Gerald McBoing-Boing, Atom Ant) and Mel Blanc (Bugs, Daffy and many more), respectively. Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey were Doug Young (Ding-a-Ling in Huckleberry Hound), Smith (also Gyro Gearloose in DuckTales) and Butler (also the unnamed wolf in many Droopy cartoons).
Also on the subject of corrections, many animation reference works list the show's original title as Peter Potamus & His Magic Flying Balloon. But Mike Tiefenbacher, who also has strong credentials as a cartoon historian, has thoroughly researched the topic, and concludes the balloon was never a part of its official name. A possible source of the error is publicity material issued by one or more of its many syndicated outlets.
After two years, the show was picked up by ABC, where it was definitely called The Peter Potamus Show. It was also licensed by Whitman Publishing for various uses, including coloring books and Little Golden Books, and by Gold Key Comics, which put out one issue of a Peter Potamus comic book in 1965. Some of the characters were recycled in various Hanna-Barbera ensemble shows of the 1970s and '80s.
Today, Peter Potamus turns up occasionally on Cartoon Network or its companion station, Boomerang. DC Comics, which currently licenses the Hanna-Barbera characters in that medium, runs an occasional story about him. Other than that, he doesn't have a very strong presence in the modern toon world.