A typical scene from Tomfoolery.


Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Rankin/Bass Productions
First Appeared: 1970
Creators: John Halas and Joy Batchelor
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The American Heritage Dictionary defines "tomfoolery" as "foolish behavior", "something trivial or foolish" or "nonsense". Meriam-Webster calls it "playful or foolish behavior". Neither offers a clue as to who …

continued below

… Tom may have been. Here, we think of Tomfoolery as the name of a strange and short-lived animated kids' TV show that flickered across U.S. television starting in 1970. (It lasted until '71.)

Tomfoolery was created and managed by the British animating team of John Halas and Joy Batchelor, who were also responsible for DoDo the Kid from Outer Space. They based it on 19th century humorous verse in the "nonsense" style, particularly the works of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. In fact, their poems are sometimes quoted verbatim, accompanied by equally nonsensical animation. Astute observers also detected the all-American nonsense work of Gelett Burgess.

A less frequently mentioned influence on Tomfoolery's style, if not content, was the live-action TV variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in, which had made a strong impression on American television a few years earlier.

The show came out of the Rankin/Bass studio, which was already well known for holiday TV specials starring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and the like. Later, Rankin/Bass would be involved with superhero shows like Silverhawks and Thundercats.

There weren't any major regular characters (tho there were a few running gags that involved recurring personnel), but a couple of voices were heard repeatedly. Credited are Peter Hawkins (Captain Pugwash, Getafix in late '80s productions of Asterix) and Bernard Spear (mostly a face actor).

Tomfoolery had a much stronger impact on the memories of its young viewers than it did on the animation field. Its 17 episodes were occasionally rerun over the years in out-of-the way time slots, but it spawned no imitators and very little merchandising. Today, as in the case of Super President, most of its now-grown viewers can scarcely believe their own memories.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Rankin/Bass.