Watch Linus and Company in the
"Macy's Thanksgiving Day Balloon"
wrap-around episode that I posted on YouTube

Linus Episodes listed at

Hear the original LONG opening and closing to
including the Post Cereal sponsor tags.
(Special Thanks to Gary "Biggy Rat" Rice!)

See an entire Linus The Lionhearted
cartoon, encoded in
RealVideo for 56 Kbps!

The Linus The Lionhearted Show

"Remember The Birds?"

Ed Graham Productions/General Foods (CBS-TV) 1964

LINUS THE LIONHEARTED premiered on CBS-TV September 26, 1964. Based upon the characters appearing at the time on the POST cereal boxes, it featured the vocal talents of some of the 60's best -- Sheldon Leonard, Carl Reiner, Ruth Buzzi, and Stiller & Meara. The series was comprised of various segments including 'Linus, King of Beasts', 'Sugar Bear', 'Lovable Truly', 'Rory Raccoon', 'So-Hi', and 'The Company'. The comedy was derived from the interplay between the distinct and humorous characterizations. The seasoned vocal talent enacted the scripts as if they were ad-libbed radio comedy shows.

Sheldon Leonard, who had made his living in the 40's and 50's playing gangsters in B-movies, was the voice of Linus, the docile, lionhearted king of beasts who ruled the jungle from his majestic throne, which was actually a barber's chair. Carl Reiner, Allan Brady of The Dick Van Dyke Show, supplied the voice of Billie the Bird, a wacky mockingbird. (Leonard and Reiner were also producing I Spy and The Dick Van Dyke Show at the time). Nightclub comic Gerry Matthews provided the voice of Sugar Bear, a voice he has done since 1962. Gerry was also TV's original Tidy Bowl Man. Bob McFadden provided the voices of So-Hi, Rory Raccoon, and Loveable Truly, the postman (Jack E. Leonard had done a pre-Lovable postman in some Post Alpha-Bits commercials which aired prior to the debut of the Linus series). Jesse White provided the voice for Claudius Crow. Ruth Buzzi, who went on to appear in Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, provided the voice of Granny Goodwitch, and Fredicka Weber did one episode as Sugar Bear's girlfriend.

Several of these voices had been in question. Three separate reference books list producer Ed Graham as the voice of Billie the Bird, Carl Reiner as the voice of Rory Raccoon, Jonathon Winters as the voice of So-Hi, and Sterling Holloway as the voice of Sugar Bear (to quote Steve Carras, "...Of course Holloway did do a bear, Pooh..could there be confusion...?"). These credits are wrong. Sugar Bear himself, Gerry Matthews, and his son Gerry Jr. both e-mailed me with additional information and corrections to help clean up the voice-credit mess that has been repeated throughout the reference books. My thanks to both of them. I'd also like to thank Ed Golick for correcting several other errors on this page. Another person deserving of thanks is Steve Carras, who has helped by taking the Linus voice debate into the Usenet rec.arts.animation newsgroup. Here's a posting from Mark Evanier that appeared regarding Jonathon Winters participation in the series:

"I'm pretty sure I recall Jonathan Winters on the show. There was one So-Hi cartoon wherein he played a giant in a David/Goliath context. Little So-Hi steps on the giant's sore toe and then the giant hops around in pain for about four minutes muttering probably-ad-libbed "curses." At the time of the show's debut, there was an article in TV Guide that had photos of Sheldon Leonard, Carl Reiner and Winters in a recording session. It said that when Winters was in the studio, they always kept the tape rolling and that they had written some cartoons around his ad-libs. I always assumed the above-described one was an example of this. On the other hand, I think reports of Sterling Holloway's participation are apocryphal. By the way: Years ago, I walked into a second-hand bookstore in L.A. and they were selling, for something like 25 cents each, the cels and paper animation to the LINUS THE LIONHEARTED title sequence. I bought as much of it as I could afford at the time -- probably about thirty bucks' worth -- and it now resides somewhere in a storage locker. Also in there is most of a Bugs Bunny Kool-Aid commercial that was directed by Tex Avery, purchased at the same store, same time. One other "by the way": If you ever hear the LINUS theme song, listen carefully to the voice of the anonymous singer who has the solo line about Linus being "the greatest." It's Thurl Ravenscroft, a.k.a. the voice of Tony the Tiger. Tony was, of course, Linus's rival on the cereal shelves of the day, and I'm guessing that Post Cereals never knew they had him in their show's theme song. And I assume the assignment of the line about "greatest" was an inside joke, referring to Tony's catch-phrase."

Mark Evanier also has a great web log that covers TV, movies, comics, and lots of other things of interest. It's worth checking out.

Stephen W. Worth of Spumco also added to the newsgroup discussion:

"Sterling Holloway played Loveable Truly in a few of the commercials, not the show. Ruth Buzzi played Granny in both the shows and the commercials. (June Foray played Granny in one recent commercial.)..... I've got a VHS dupe of an old B&W 16mm TV distribution print of two Linus episodes, and neither Holloway or Winters are in it. I know Post redesigned and monkeyed with the Lovable Truly postman several times."

I recently acquired another Linus the Lionhearted episode on 16mm film. This episode has cleared up the confusion as to Jonathan Winters' contribution to the series. He is clearly heard in a Rory Raccoon cartoon doing the voice of a crow. He may have done other voices on the series, but the crow is the only voice that I can verify that he did. The closing credits to the show also list Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara (parents of Ben Stiller) as providing other voices on the show. If anyone can place names to these voices please e-mail me.

Linus the Lionhearted was originally created as the product symbol for General Foods POST Crispy Critters cereal by Gene Schinto, a copy writer for General Foods advertising agency, Benton & Bowles. Schinto's partner was Ed Graham, who wrote, directed and produced the memorable Bert and Harry Piel beer commercials featuring the comedy team of Bob Elliot (Chris Elliot's father) and Ray Goulding while at the Young and Rubicam ad agency. Ed Graham contacted animator Irv Spence, who had worked with Graham on the beer commercials while at UPA, and asked him to set up a studio in California for the Linus series. Paul Spector, Irv's son, e-mailed the following regarding the Linus the Lionhearted series:

"...My father (Irv Spector) as well as many other cartoonists migrated to southern California in the early 1960's as the industry moved from movie animation into television... We were living in California at the time Ed Graham contacted my father and asked him to head-up a studio for the Linus show. To be brief, my father found the studio space and created the pilot episode (if memory serves it was called "The Flyin' Lion") along with a few peers he hired, but it was pretty much his "baby" and it sold the series to the sponsor. Not only was the pilot his "baby" but Ed Graham pretty much remained in New York while my father was the creative head in Los Angeles. "

The show's owner and sponsor, General Foods, realizing the importance of the show to their breakfast cereal sales, insisted on high production standards. Each half hour show cost in excess of $87,000, almost three times the cost of other Saturday morning cartoons at the time. In September, 1966, the show moved to Sunday mornings on ABC-TV. It fell victim, on September 7, 1969, to a new FCC ruling which forbid characters on children's shows from appearing in commercial messages within the shows.The Linus the Lionhearted Show was directed by Gerard Baldwin, Clyde Geronimi, George Singer and Marvin Woodward. The music was provided by Hoyt Curtin, the man responsible for the Beany and Cecil music and most of the Hanna-Barbera musical output. The head writer of the series was Bill Schnurr. Irv Spector, in addition to heading-up the studio, provided storyboards for the show. Other storyboards were done by Tom Dagenais, Tom Henderson, and Lee Mishkin. The show was credited as an Ed Graham Production for General Foods Corporation.

Linus, showing off his talents to So-Hi,
Rory Raccoon, and Lovable Truly.

Linus, giving advice to Dinny Kangaroo

The Birds, a jungle rock band, featuring
Billie Bird and Sascha Grouse.

Sugar Bear, Granny Goodwitch,
and The Wolf, on a joy ride.

Lovable Truly, the postman,
rescuing a flying dog.

So-Hi, the Chinese boy.

Joe Schey sent me the following pictures. Click on the links to view them. They are from animated commercials, produced after the Linus the Lionhearted series, featuring the Post Cereal characters.

Rory Raccoon

Rory, So-Hi, and the revamped Postman

A look at the Post Cereal boxes, again courtesy of Joe Schey

See the TV Guide article on Linus the Lionhearted


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UPDATED November 22, 2007


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