L-r: Robonic Larry, Robonic Curley, Robonic Moe.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1977
Creator: Norman Maurer
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The Three Stooges have been perennially popular in film comedy shorts since the late 1920s. By the '50s, they were fixtures on television. Over the years, they've been exploited in various media, including feature-length movies and cartoons. During the 1970s, Stooge …

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… associate Norman Maurer developed a superhero version, which was produced by Hanna-Barbera (Huckleberry Hound, Inch High Private Eye) and aired on CBS. Maurer's prior Stooge connections include writing and drawing Stooge comic books, writing Stooge movies, and marrying Stooge Moe Howard's daughter, Joan.

The word "robonic" doesn't appear in most dictionaries, but still isn't entirely unknown outside of this context. It appears to be a combination, or "portmanteau" word, made from "robot" and "bionic", itself a portmanteau of "biologic" and "electronic". In this case, it refers to the Stooges' conversion from clumsy, inept slapstick comedy stars to clumsy, inept cyborg superheroes. It may also be influenced by "moronic", which they often called each other.

The Robonic Stooges were first seen as a segment of the mostly-live action Saturday Morning show The Skatebirds, which started September 10, 1977. That show was very short-lived, and the Stooges were off the air at the beginning of the 1978 TV season. But they were a mid-season addition to the schedule, and began under their own listing on January 28, 1978.

By the time the three were "robonicized", Stooges Larry Fine and Moe Howard were both dead; and the survivor, Curly Joe DeRita, had retired. Larry's voice was done by Joe Baker (The Thing in cartoons that had little to do with The Fantastic Four, various voices in Kwicky Koala). Moe was Paul Winchel (Winnie the Pooh's friend Tigger, Zummi Gummi). Curly Joe was voice veteran Frank Welker (Curious George, Waffles and Chainsaw in Goof Troop). Agent 000, who gave them their assignments, was Ross Martin (Dr. Williams in Sealab 2020, Gulliver in a 1979 remake of Gulliver's Travels).

There were two Stooge segments in each half-hour episode. A third segment starred Woofer & Wimper, Dog Detectives, a spin-off of The Clue Club, a Scooby-Doo-like series that had replaced Scooby when that show moved to ABC in 1976.

There were 16 episodes made as part of The Skatebirds, and 16 more in the half-season they had their own show. It has not been a merchandising bonanza, nor a frequently-seen subject of reruns.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.