26 August 2006 | theowinthrop
A Delightful Introduction To Some of the Classics
In 1962 Jim Backus's famous cartoon character Mr. Quincy McGoo (graduate of Rutgers), was dusted off and made to appear in a television cartoon - a musical entitled "Mr. McGoo's "Christmas Carol"", in which he played Ebenezer Scrooge. It happened to be a very charming version of the Dickens' tale, and was well received. It is usually revived on one network or another in December.
Obviously this series from 1964 was to take advantage of the success of "The Christmas Carol". It was a weekly show with McGoo playing a wide variety of characters from fiction. For example, he played Ismael in a half hour version of "Moby Dick", Victor Frankenstein in a version of the Mary Shelley novel, Edmond Dantes in a version of "The Count Of Monte Cristo", D'Artagnan in a version of "The Three Musketeers", Don Quixote,and Dr. Watson in a Sherlock Holmes adventure. He was also Noah in a retelling of the great flood story from Genesis. The most ambitious retelling was Robin Hood and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Instead of the half-hour format these shows were two episodes or so. In the Robin Hood episode he was not Robin but Friar Tuck, and in the Snow White he was all seven dwarfs (fully possible without trick photography of course - just "trick" cartoon drawing). There was also one episode where he played himself and a crook he was pretending to be, as he worked with Dick Tracy to smash a criminal conspiracy.
The series only lasted one season. It was well handled, and of course it did not get deeply involved in the various plot complexities of Melville, Dumas pere, Doyle, or Cervantes. But it held the attention of a young ten year old who watched it - and it did it's job: encouraged the ten year old to read more.
For Jim Backus it was the last real highpoint in his career as the nearsighted cartoon figure. At least here (except when he played himself and when he was Dr. Watson) he acted more straight - although he kept the voice properly. He would say many years later, on a program about the history of cartoons, that he never heard of any real person with a voice like McGoo's. But it was his first boost to stardom. His next was around the corner. Shortly he was cast as Thuston Howell III in "Gilligan's Island".