King Leonardo and his Short Subjects is an animated cartoon series released in 1960 by Total Television Productions (which would later rename itself Leonardo Productions after the main character of this show), sponsored by General Mills.
The show focused on Leonardo the lion (voiced by Jackson Beck), the well-meaning but often inept King of Bongo Congo, a fictional African nation notable for its bongos. Leonardo is assisted in all things by a calm, competent skunk named Odie Cologne, aka "Odie O. Cologne" (voiced by Allen Swift). Odie, the one who really keeps the kingdom on an even keel, has been by the king's side since they were children.
King Leonardo's permanent foe is his sibling, Itchy Brother (voiced by Allen Swift), a good-for-nothing who has lost his mane (apparently to mange) and who talks like a beatnik. Itchy is the tool of gangster-visaged Biggie Rat (voiced by Jackson Beck). The two routinely attempt to overthrow Leonardo and seize Bongo Congo for themselves. Biggie often has the help of an evil German inventor named Professor Messer (also voiced by Jackson Beck) and of Odie's flirtatious sister Carlotta. Itchy and Biggie's various schemes always end in their either landing in the dungeon or getting away.
Episodes of "The King and Odie" that were exclusive to Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales feature Biggie Rat and Itchy Brother employed by Mr. Mad (voiced by Norman Rose), a mad scientist with a domineering personality, easily cowing even the strong-willed Biggie, and with his own nefarious plans for Bongo Congo: he intends to capture King Leonardo as a specimen for his studies on human behavior (even though Leonardo isn't human). When each of his schemes falls through, Mr. Mad disappears, as if by magic, before he can be apprehended.
Each half-hour episode of King Leonardo consisted of five animated segments. Each half-hour included a two-part King and Odie cliffhanger story, with other characters featured in between:
- Tooter Turtle: The adventures of a turtle (voiced by Allen Swift) who has Mr. Wizard the Lizard (voiced by Sandy Becker) transport him to various settings, only to realize he was better off at home.
- The Hunter: A Southern-accented, crime-fighting bloodhound detective (voiced by Kenny Delmar) chases after an evil fox simply named the Fox (voiced by Ben Stone); the Fox is always apprehended in the end.
Early in the series' NBC run, selected Columbia Pictures theatrical cartoons were aired on the program, some featuring The Fox and The Crow and Li'l Abner.
These shorts were added to fill time when production of the early shows was delayed. The Columbia cartoons were featured during NBC showings of Hanna-Barbera's Ruff and Reddy but not included in subsequent syndicated versions of the series.
After King Leonardo and his Short Subjects ended, one season of new segments of "The King and Odie" and "The Hunter" continued to be produced and aired on Total Television Productions's Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, which premiered in 1963. The following year, Total Television Productions launched its most popular series, The Underdog Show. When Underdog premiered in 1964, it featured repeats of The Hunter, while The Hunter's former spot on the Tennessee Tuxedo program was filled by repeats of Tooter Turtle.
Another segment of the original King Leonardo show was Twinkles (an orange elephant), which simultaneously appeared as a feature on Jay Ward's Rocky and His Friends [over Ward's objections; after a brief period, it was seen on King Leonardo exclusively]. The title character served as the mascot of Twinkles Cereal, a product of the show's chief sponsor, General Mills. The 90-second Twinkles segments continued to air in syndication during the 1960s, and were presented in a 15-minute format under the title The King and Odie, but later phased out after a firefighter character replaced the elephant as the cereal's mascot. The segments also appeared during some NBC network rebroadcasts of Underdog. The Twinkles segments were not included when King Leonardo And His Short Subjects was syndicated in a half-hour format during the 1980s.
King Leonardo and his Short Subjects was part of NBC's Saturday morning lineup until 1963.
The animation for the show's early segments was produced by TV Spots, with later episodes by Gamma Productions, the same Mexico-based studio that did much of the work for Ward Productions. For this reason, and due to shared sponsorship by General Mills, Gamma has often been associated with both Total Television Productions and Ward Productions. TV Spots was primarily a producer of animated commercials, but also was contracted for some segments of Rocky and His Friends for Ward Productions.
In reruns, Total Television Productions shorts often have been packaged alongside Jay Ward cartoons. Despite similar limited-animation styles, they were two separate studios.
King Leonardo, despite its earlier episodes repackaged for syndication as The King and Odie during the mid-1960s, never attained the popularity of Total Television Productions's other series, The Underdog Show and Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, and is rarely seen on television today. Beginning in 2006, the Black Family Channel aired this show on its BFC Kids TV programming block until the channel's demise a year later. The characters of this show were also featured in an eight-issue comic book produced by Dell Comics and Gold Key.
Segments from The King and Odie, The Hunter and Tooter Turtle are featured in the TV show. In syndication, King and Odie, The Hunter and Tooter Turtle are featured in both Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales and The Underdog Show.
- Jackson Beck - Leonardo, Biggie Rat, Professor Messer
- Allen Swift - Odie Cologne, Itchy, Duke, Earl, Tooter Turtle, Narrator ("The King and Odie")
- Sandy Becker - Mr. Wizard
- Kenny Delmar - The Hunter, Narrator ("The Hunter")
- Ben Stone - The Fox, Officer Flim Flanigan
- Norman Rose - Mr. Mad, Narrator (several 1963 episodes of "The King and Odie")
- Delo States - various female and children's voices
- George S. Irving - Narrator ("Twinkles"), various voices