Classic Cartoons

The History of the Cartoon Top Cat

Top Cat features a gang of cats left with no other option than to scam people to survive in the dangerous alleys of New York City

Top Cat is another William Hanna and Joseph Barbera masterpiece. Set in the dark alleys of New York City, this classic cartoon is all about the adventures of a gang of cats lead by ‘Top Cat.’ Due to poor ratings in the U.S., this cartoon was only aired from September 27, 1961 to April 18, 1962. This means that ‘Top Cat’ just ran for one season with 30 episodes in total.

Top Cat’s storyline involves a gang of swindler cats. The leader of the gang is named Top Cat. Aside from swindling, Top Cat’s group is also held responsible for other unscrupulous activities in New York City.

Meanwhile, it is the job of police officer Charles “Charlie” Dibble to apprehend the cats. Unfortunately, for him,  Officer Dibble always falls into Top Cat’s traps and fails to watch the cat gang.

Below are some interesting facts about Top Cat.

  • Initial Broadcast – Under the sponsorship of Kellogg’s and Bristol-Myers, Top Cat aired on ABC as part of its primetime block. Top Cat first aired on September 27, 1961, Wednesday, at 8:30-9:00 PM (Eastern Time). The pilot airing of the show in the U.S. generated good ratings. Unfortunately, the public’s support dwindled in the succeeding episodes.
  • Influence – Top Cat’s storyline was greatly influenced by the Emmy Award-nominated sitcom ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ (originally titled ‘You’ll Never Get Rich). CBS aired the ‘‘The Phil Silvers Show’ from 1955- 1959. In the said sitcom,’ Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko is engaged in swindling activities to get ‘easy’ money. Aside from this, Bilko is also fond of asking soldiers under his leadership to do things for him. In exchange for these favors, Master Sergeant Bilko pays back by protecting his men no matter what it takes. Top Cat has the same plot as far as swindlers are concerned. The difference is only that they are not humans, but cats. Top Cat is the leader of the cats in the dark alleys of New York City. Although Top Cat is a notorious swindler, he is also famous for giving his all to defend the cats in his gang.
  • Top Voices – Arnold Stang, the voice of Top Cat, was compelled to imitate the voice of Master Sergeant Bilko, the main character of the ‘The Phil Silvers Show.’ This is because Top Cat was based on the said classic sitcom that was aired in the mid-50s. Other voice talents for the show include the following:
  1. Brain, Spook (cat)- Leo De Lyon
  2. Fancy-Fancy (cat)- John Stephenson
  3. Choo-Choo (cat)- Marvin Kaplan
  4. Benny the Ball (cat)- Maurice Gosfield
  5. Officer Dibble (police officer)- Allen Jenkins
  • Big Screen Debut – Fifty years after it was first aired on TV, the movie version of Top Cat was released. ‘Top Cat: The Movie’ was first shown on the big screen on September 16, 2011. Since Top Cat was a huge success in Europe, it’s not surprising that European film companies, particularly the Anima Estudios and Illusion Studios, produced  ‘Top Cat: The Movie (this was called ‘Don Gato y suPandilla’ in Spanish).
  • Top Cat’s Rank – Unlike other Hanna-Barbera shows, Top Cat did not become a hit in the United States. However, in India, Mexico, and other Latin American territories, this cartoon yielded high ratings.
  • Final Run – After 30 episodes, Top Cat finally ended on April 18, 1962. According to reports, the show only ran for more than six months due to the poor ratings it got from the U.S.
  • Unseen Cast – Police Officer Dibble’s wife was frequently mentioned in Top Cat, but Mrs. Dibble was never seen in the show until it ended.
  • Guest Appearances: The character of Top Cat was frequently seen in other cartoons of the same era. His guest appearances included shows like ‘The Flintstones’, ‘Yogi Bear’, and ‘Duck Dodgers’. Most of the cat gang, including Top Cat but excluding Bran, were also featured in a ‘Heathcliff’ strip.

Top Cat: The Movie became a certified box office hit after earning $112.25 million gross sales in Mexico alone

Top Cat Ratings in Select Countries

  • Latin America – In Latin America, particularly in Argentina, Peru, and Mexico, Top Cat TV series became a huge success. Top Cat was even recognized as one of the best Hannah-Barbera shows ever aired in Latin America.
  • The United Kingdom – Like in Latin America, Top Cat became a big hit in the U.K. The cartoon was aired on BBC Television. However, the channel cartoon’s title was changed into ‘Boss Cat.’ Such a change was made to avoid confusion with popular cat food in the U.K. (in the 60s), which was also called Top Cat.
  • Canada. Top Cat was also famous in Canada. In fact, the cartoon was among the pilot programs aired over CTV, Canada’s first privately-owned television network.
  • India – Although Top Cat was aired in India way later than in other countries, this show still got overwhelming support from the public. Top Cat was initially aired in India via Cartoon Network in 1990 and was rerun in 2003.
  • U.S.A. – As earlier stated, this Hanna-Barbera classic did not get high ratings in America.

Conclusion

Whole the cartoon ‘Top Cat’ might not have been the most popular cartoon within the United States, it still gets frequent reruns in many parts of the world. This might be the time when a new generation could enjoy the episodes as well. With the name of the show  and the names of its characters translated into several languages,  we may assume that this cartoon is still one that made an impact on people.

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