The Beatles Saturday Morning Cartoon Show: The Complete 1965-1969 Series

We’ve become so accustomed to thinking of the Beatles as Serious Artists™ that it’s easy to forget—at least for those of us who weren’t there—how highly commercial a franchise they were in the mid-sixties. It’s no wonder Joe Strummer’s line about “phony Beatlemania” in the Clash’s “London Calling” resonated so strongly for those disaffected with the reign of the Fab Four. The real thing was overwhelming enough, but the slew of official, unofficial, and bootleg merchandising that followed it, much of it aimed at children, makes the band’s dominance seem, well, kinda juvenile. Before they escaped pop stardom and retreated to the studio to record their psychedelic masterpieces, the Beatles received every possible commercial treatment, from lunchboxes and cereal bowls to jigsaw puzzles, lampshades, and a Ringo Starr bubble bath. Perusing an online auction of Beatles merch is a bit like touring Graceland.

There’s one artifact from the height of Beatlemania that you won’t find, however. Instead, you can watch it for free on Youtube. I refer to The Beatles, a half-hour Saturday morning cartoon show that ran on ABC from September, 1965 to September 1969 and produced a total of 39 episodes. The band themselves had almost nothing to do with the show, other than appearing in an odd promotion. Trading entirely in broad slapstick comedy of the Scooby-Doo variety, the show saw the four mates tumble into one goofy situation after another, some supernatural, some musical, some theatrical. Although all natural performers themselves, no Beatle ever voiced his character on the show. Instead, American actor Paul Frees, as John and George, and British actor Lance Percival, as Paul and Ringo, imitated them, very badly. The Beatles cartoon show aired at a time when the kids TV landscape was just beginning to resemble the one we have today, with ABC competitor CBS running superhero shows like Space Ghost, Superman, and Mighty Mouse, but the surreal plots and musical numbers on The Beatles were an attempt to reach adults as well. Watch the first episode at the top, and see this playlist for the rest.

Related Content:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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  • little john says:

    let see

  • Patric Stillman says:

    Fun article! At that time, cartoons and music were the rage. The Beatles, The Osmonds, The Jackson Five … all had cartoons while regular shows like The Archies, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, HR Puffinstuf, and many others had music segments. Even ‘bug music’ hit the Flintstones which was seen in the evening with an episode featuring the music of The Four Insects. It was definitely for the kids. I was only 7 when this show ran but remember them clearly. Meanwhile, my older siblings were definitely not into it at all. They were too busy playing their 45s and jumping around the AM radio dial on their portable radios.

  • Patric Stillman says:

    Fun article! At that time, cartoons and music were the rage. The Beatles, The Osmonds, The Jackson Five … all had cartoons while regular shows like The Archies, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, HR Puffinstuf, and many others had music segments. Even ‘bug music’ hit the Flintstones which was seen in the evening with an episode featuring the music of The Four Insects. It was definitely for the kids. I was only 7 when this show ran but remember them clearly. Meanwhile, my older siblings were definitely not into it at all. They were too busy playing their 45s and jumping around the AM radio dial on their portable radios.

  • BrucePayne says:

    Screw The Clash.

  • Robert Hunt says:

    This was just one of the hundreds of marketing deals that Brian Epstein worked out and while the band members themselves had absolutely no interest in it, it had at least two interesting after-effects. One was that the cartoon’s producers retained an option to produce a feature film, resulting in the far superior “Yellow Submarine”. The other, probably even more financially rewarding, was that since the cartoon series consisted of two episodes, each based on a recording, with “filler” musical segments in between, the entire Beatles catalogue was being exposed to a very receptive audience. While most pop acts were known only for their few hits, their b-sides and album tracks generally ignored, the Beatles were the only band to get airplay for nearly every track they recorded.

  • Chris says:

    Itu2019s no wonder Joe Strummeru2019s line about u201cphony Beatlemaniau201d in the Clashu2019s u201cLondon Callingu201d resonated so strongly for those disaffected with the reign of the Fab Four. nnnnUh, no. Strummer was referring to the late-70’s Broadway and West End Beatles musical production “Beatlemania” that had performers impersonating the Beatles on-stage. It was poorly regarded but it did big business.

  • Beatletoons says:

    For more info on the Beatles cartoons, check out my book, “Beatletoons – The Real Story Behind The Cartoon Beatles.”

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