September 14, 2012

When lions were king (of breakfast cereals)

How many of you remember the 1960s Saturday morning cartoon Linus the Lionhearted? (Not to be confused with King Leonardo, another cartoon featuring a royal lion, or with Linus Van Pelt from Peanuts.) Perhaps you're more familiar with one of the characters that appeared on Linus - Sugar Bear. And therein lies the tale.

Linus the Lionhearted ran on CBS and ABC (which is where I remember it) from 1964 to 1969. The characters were created originally as advertising characters for Post cereals, hence Sugar Bear. The FCC made a ruling in 1969 that forbade children's show characters from appearing in advertisements on the same program and ABC was forced to cancel the program.*

* Interesting - I hadn't thought of this before, but King Leonardo was sponsored by General Mills, the archrival to Post. What the appeal of animated lions for cereal companies was, I don't know.

Of course, one might wonder whatever happened to that FCC ruling, since so many cartoons on TV today seem to be nothing but full-length commercials. They don't even try to tell a story. (I seem to recall having seen a Pokeman cartoon a few years ago which seemed to consist solely of kids playing the game; if that isn't a commercial, I'm not sure what is.) Unfortunately, this was the era of so-called "reform" of children's programming, spearheaded by groups such as the Children's Television Workshop, which in reality served primarily to destroy local children's TV, wiping out the necessary relationship between host and sponsor that kept these shows on the air.

First is the opening title sequence for Linus, which makes me wonder how there was any time for either cartoons or advertising:

Finally, we have a clip of the aforementioned Sugar Bear, who somehow survived everything and continues (unlike the others) plugging cereal - it used to be known as Sugar Crisp before being P.C.'d into its current name, Golden Crisp. I always thought Sugar Bear was supposed to sound like Bing Crosby, and apparently others thought so as well. I don't know why the other characters failed to survive as commercial icons; perhaps someone else has the info.

Originally posted at Our Word and Welcome to It.

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