Most people probably know Josie and the Pussycats to be the 2001 live-action film starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson, but what some of them don’t know that it is actually based on a cartoon show, which is also based on an Archie comic book. To know more about the history of the rock band made up of three talented and intelligent girls, here is an introduction to Josie and the Pussycats.
Conceptualization and Production
When The Archie Show proved to be a major success for animation company Filmation and network CBS in the late 1960s, the rival company, Hanna-Barbera Productions, wanted to capitalize on the animated musical TV show by creating their own. The production studio first conceptualized a show about a group of teenagers who solves mysteries while also being in a rock band, but the idea was eventually scrapped in favor of using already established characters in the Archie Comics franchise. The mystery-solving group was revived as a different concept, and this concept then became the popular show “Scooby-Doo, Where are You.”
Hanna-Barbera contacted Archie Comics and asked if they can use one of the intellectual properties for a cartoon show that will be similar to The Archie Show. Archie Comics agreed and collaborated with Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s to develop a show based on Josie and the Pussycats, a comic that features a fictional rock band of the same name created by Dan DeCarlo and published from 1965 to 1982. Both companies differentiated the show from the comics by removing and adding characters in the ensemble, with the two new characters being roadie Alan M. Mayberry and bassist Valerie Brown.
Before the premiere of the cartoon show, Hanna-Barbera decided to create a real-life Josie and the Pussycats band to drive hype and make people excited about the show. The band would provide the singing voices for the songs featured on the show, and they will also have the opportunity to record a full-length album.
The search for the band members of Josie and the Pussycats was conducted by Danny Janssen and Bobby Young, who ran the recording studio La La Productions. They held an audition to find three young women who will play as Josie, Melody, and Valerie. After picking 500 finalists, they were able to decide on the three girls who will be given an opportunity to sing or play instruments in a popular band. These girls were Kathleen Dougherty as Josie, Cheryl Ladd (who was known back then as Cherie Moor) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie.
When Danny Janssen showed the newly formed band to Hanna-Barbera, he was told to recast Patrice Holloway, since the company wanted to create an all-white music group, even though Valerie is originally drawn as a black woman in the comics. Janssen didn’t want to recast Holloway, as he believed in the girl’s talent while also stating that Hanna-Barbera’s notion of recasting her for a white woman is racist. He threatened to step out of the project if Hanna-Barbera refuses to cast Holloway as Valerie, and after three weeks of debates, Janssen was victorious in keeping Holloway. When the show premiered, Valerie Brown is considered to be the first black female character in a Saturday morning cartoon.
Although there are more than ten characters that appeared on the show, including the villains, there are seven who act as the protagonists. The main protagonist of the cartoon is Josephine “Josie” McCoy, the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Josie and the Pussycats. The other members of the band are Valerie Brown, the bassist and the smartest of the group, and Melody Valentine, the drummer and the comic relief character that is based on the “dumb blonde” stereotype.
The other characters who join them in their world tour are Alexander Cabot III, the band’s manager that has a cowardly personality; Alexandra Cabot, Alexander’s twin sister who is mean and tries to take the spotlight away from the three members of the band; Sebastian, Alexandra’s cat who is also grouchy like her owner; and Alan M. Mayberry, the band’s roadie and the love interest of Josie.
The story for each episode puts all the main characters on an exotic land where the band is supposed to play in, but because of some nefarious schemes conducted by the villains living in the area, they are forced to solve the mysteries of the land and thwart the villain’s plans before they can perform on stage or in a studio.
Broadcast and Sequel
Josie and the Pussycats premiered at CBS on September 12, 1970, and after 16 episodes, the team behind the show finished production on January 2, 1971. Reruns of the show were aired not only on CBS but also ABC and NBC (after receiving syndication) between 1974 and 1976.
A sequel/spin-off of the show titled “Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space” was aired from 1972 to 1973 on CBS. This version of Josie and the Pussycats shows the group traveling in outer space and meeting various alien races. The spin-off also introduced a new character named Bleep, an alien pet that was adopted by Melody, who, for some reason, is the only one who can understand and decipher what he is saying. Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space also ran for 16 episodes like its predecessor before it was canceled on December 23, 1972.