Saturday mornings started really early in my house. My parents were not part of the morning but my little brother was. He and I would get up by 6:30. The rest of the week we would not want to get up till much later but Saturday was “Cartoon Day.” The multicolored animation would keep us entertained for hours.
One of my favorite programs was the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. It was the adventures of Rocket J. Squirrel and his friend Bullwinkle J. Moose. The show ran from 1959 to 1973 and then in syndication. Besides Rocky and Bullwinkle we were also given short filler cartoons such as Fractured Fairy Tales, Peabody’s Improbable History, Dudley Do-Right Of The Mounties, Aesop And Son, and Mr. Know-It-All. The most enjoyable for me was Mr. Peabody.
It is cartoonist Ted Key, creator of time-traveling dog scientist Peabody and his boy Sherman, who has taken his Final Taxi at age 95.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman have been pop culture favorites since they first appeared in the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segment of animation producer Jay Ward’s Rocky and His Friends in 1959. (Ward was a childhood friend of Ted’s brother Leonard.)
Featuring the voices of Bill Scott (Mr. Peabody) and Walter Tetley (Sherman), “Peabody’s Improbable History” appeared in 91 four-minute segments. A major live-action motion picture of their adventures is in production.
Key also created the cartoon character Hazel, a popular feature in the Saturday Evening Post since 1943. The wisecracking maid became a regular feature in the magazine.
Later, Hazel appeared in books collecting the cartoons, a syndicated newspaper strip, and a live-action sitcom which ran for four years on NBC and one more on CBS. Shirley Booth, the TV show’s title character, won two Emmy awards for her performances.
The author of four children’s books (one of which was made into a movie), Key wrote the storylines of four live-action Disney films: The Million Dollar Duck (1971), Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World (1973), Gus (1976) and The Cat from Outer Space (1978).
He created the comic feature Diz and Liz, which ran in popular children’s magazine Jack and Jill from 1961 through 1972.
Ted Key was born Theodore Keyser in Fresno, California on August 25, 1912. Graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1933, he moved to New York, freelancing cartoons for magazines and occasionally writing for radio. Eventually, he headed to Philadelphia, continuing to draw cartoons and write stories.
Although he retired in 1993, King Features still syndicates the Hazel strip, using material that he prepared for his retirement.