Dick Tracy (1961)

Run Time - 30 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Synopsis by Bruce Eder

This cartoon series, consisting of 130 5-minute programs, looked a lot like Mr. Magoo, which was understandable as both the Tracy and Magoo series produced by United Productions of America. Dick Tracy, drawn in the realistic style of the newspaper strip (and voiced by Everett Sloane), was primarily seen in the opening segment, sitting at his desk at headquarters, contacting his various operatives by the two-way wrist-radio and assigning them their tasks. Tracy's operatives include Officer Heap O'Calorie, Hemlock Holmes, Go-Go Gomez, and Joe Jitsu -- these characters were drawn in exagerated cartoon style which, in the case of Japanese detective Joe Jitsu, was also highly ethnically offensive in decades to come (which is why the series disappeared from syndication in the 1970's). The villains were more interesting, an array of physical grotesques drawn right from the comic strip -- Pruneface, Itchy, BB Eyes, Flat Top et al, drawn in a more realistic style. The voices of the supporting detectives were based, in most instances, on some familiar movie figures: Cary Grant for Hemlock Holmes, Andy Devine for Heap O'Calorie etc. The cartoons were long on laughs and short on logic and excitement, and the production values, even by the standards of the limited animation typical for television, were somewhat threadbare. Indeed, the most memorable and exciting part of this series was the opening and closing sequences -- an overhead shot of a big city street, looking a lot like midtown Manhattan in the early 1960's, shows a police car at full siren cutting through traffic, and gunshots spell out "Dick Tracy," accompanied to swish-pan shots of panicked onlookers; the patrol car pulls up in front of a police station, and we cut to Tracy at his desk, telling the chief on his intercom that he "get right on it." The closing sequence was similar, a police car cutting through traffic at full speed, siren blaring, while onlookers stare. The credit sequence animators at least knew the look and feel of film noir, as well as a good action show.