George of the Jungle is an American animated series produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott, who created The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The character George was inspired by the legend of Tarzan and a cartoon characterization of George Eiferman (Mr. America, Mr. Universe, IFBB Hall of Famer) drawn by a cook on his mine sweeper in the Navy during WW2. It ran for 17 episodes on Saturday mornings from September 9 to December 30, 1967, on the American TV network ABC. The half-hour program was distributed for many years by Worldvision Enterprises, currently part of CBS Television Distribution.
Each episode featured three segments in the form of three unrelated cartoons: George of the Jungle, Tom Slick, and Super Chicken.
Unlike previous Ward series, the animation production was done in Hollywood using veteran animators Phil Duncan, Rod Scribner, and Rudy Zamora, among others. Each segment's theme song was written by the team of Stan Worth and Sheldon Allman, though the cartoons themselves had little or no music scoring, as with Bullwinkle. Ward mainstays Bill Scott, June Foray, Paul Frees, and Daws Butler provided most of the character voices over all three segments.
The cartoons are technically more advanced than the crude animation in Ward's earlier series, which originated from a Mexican studio sponsored by Ward. He was so pleased with George of the Jungle that he allowed production to go over-budget, which resulted in considerable financial loss, ultimately limiting the series to 17 episodes.
The complete series is available now on DVD.
George of The JungleEdit
The title segment, George of the Jungle, is a parody of the popular Tarzan stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. George (voiced by Bill Scott), is a dim-witted but big-hearted "ape man" who is always called upon by District Commissioner Alistair (voiced by Paul Frees) to save inhabitants of the jungle from various threats.
In the opening title, George is depicted swinging on vines, repeatedly slamming face-first into trees or other obstacles even as theme-song singers warn him to "watch out for that tree!" Another running gag is that George keeps forgetting that he lives in a treehouse, falling to the ground every time he leaves home.
George's "beloved mate" is Ursula (voiced by June Foray), a Jane-like character far brighter than George, whom George refers to as "Fella." (Thus the appearance of the dancing "twins" Fella and Ursula in the end titles.) George's closest friend is an ape named Ape (voiced by Paul Frees impersonating Ronald Colman) who like Ursula is far more intelligent than George. George has a pet elephant named Shep, who behaves like a lap dog or, as George refers to him, a "great big peanut-lovin' poochie," and who George thinks is a dog. Also of note is the Tooky Tooky (or Tookie Tookie) bird famous for his call: "Ah ah ee ee tooky tooky."
George's two most frequent foes are a pair of hunters named "Tiger" Titherage and "Weevil" Plumtree (voiced by Daws Butler and Paul Frees). "Tiger" Titherage, the taller of the two, wears a pith helmet and khakis and has a pencil moustache; while "Weevil" Plumtree talks like a pirate ("Arr!") and wears a white t-shirt and shorts with a hat. Another one of the George's enemies is a mad scientist named Dr. Chicago (voiced by Daws Butler)
In 1997, the segment was adapted into a live action film, titled George of The Jungle. Brendan Fraser played the title role, with Leslie Mann as Ursula, John Cleese as the voice of Ape, and Thomas Haden Church as the villain. A direct-to-video sequel George of The Jungle 2, starring Christopher Showman as George, was released in 2003.
Tom Slick features the title character (voiced by Bill Scott), a racecar driver who competes in races with his trusty vehicle, the Thunderbolt Greaseslapper. He is accompanied by his girlfriend, Marigold (voiced by June Foray), and his elderly mechanic, Gertie Growler (also voiced by Bill Scott). Tom's chief antagonists are Baron Otto Matic (voiced by Paul Frees) and his lackey, Clutcher (voiced by Daws Butler), whom the Baron often hits across the head with a monkey wrench.
Super Chicken features the title character (voiced by Bill Scott), a superhero (who, in "real life", is wealthy Henry Cabot Henhouse III) with a lion sidekick named Fred (voiced by Paul Frees). Super Chicken usually begins their adventures with the battle cry, "Quick, Fred, to the Super Coop," and when Fred comments on his latest injury, responds with a variation of the theme, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it." Following his own mistakes, Super Chicken remarks, "I'm glad no one was here to see that!"
Classic Media developed a new George of the Jungle Flash animated series in 2007. The new version of the series is co-produced with DHX Media and Teletoon, and currently airs on Teletoon in Canada and on Cartoon Network in the United States (starting with a Christmas-themed episode December 21, 2007). The series is scheduled to air on Nicktoons in the United Kingdom and Disney Channel in Southeast Asia. The series officially premiered on Cartoon Network on January 18.
The series also ignores the segments of Tom Slick and Super Chicken, like the films of 1997 and 2003.
On February 12, 2008, Classic Media released a complete collection of the 1967 series, which included as a bonus feature the original pilot cartoons for both George of the Jungle and Super Chicken.
In 2002, TV Guide ranked George of the Jungle # 30 on its "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" list.
"Weird Al" Yankovic did a cover version of the George of the Jungle theme on his 1985 album Dare to Be Stupid, the only straight cover Yankovic ever released on an album, and which later appeared on the soundtrack of the 1997 live-action film. Another cover of the theme by The Presidents of The United States of America also appeared on the soundtrack and was the title theme for the film.
The Rhino Records 1989 release Rerun Rock: Superstars Sing Television Themes included a cover version performed in the style of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin and sung by Scott Shaw.
The electro group Dynamix II did a hip hop version of the George of the Jungle theme called "Straight from the Jungle" in 1987.