7 fab things you never knew about The Beatles cartoon

This Sixties Saturday morning favorite predicted the future.

The Beatles cartoon seems like a fleeting part of Beatlemania in hindsight, but the Saturday-morning staple actually ran for most of the band's existence. Production began on the animated series in 1964, shortly after the Fab Four sent shockwaves through pop culture on Sullivan.

Premiering on ABC in 1965, The Beatles aired original episodes through 1967. Reruns continued into 1969. The band broke up only months later.

The cartoon froze the ever-evolving band in time. The cartoon boys were stuck wearing the same suits and moptops they had sported in 1963–64, as the human Beatles grew shaggier.

Hugely successful at the time, The Beatles is rarely seen today. It remains a cherished part of Boomers' Beatles memories. Let's take a closer look.

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1. The director initially thought it was about bugs.

The Beatles made their landmark appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in early 1964. Americans immediately changed — 73 million of them watched. Days later, producer Al Brodax called animator Ron Campbell. "Ron, we'd like you to direct the Beatles TV cartoon show," Brodax said. "That's great, Al, but beetles make terrible characters for children's cartoons," Campbell replied. "Insects are awful."

Image: King Features Syndicate

2. Boris from 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' was the voice of John and George.

The Liverpool foursome did not voice their own characters. They had no hand in the creation of the cartoon. Instead, professional voice actors were hired to bring the Beatles to life. That is immediately evident when you watch the series. Paul Frees, best known as Boris Badenov in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, voiced John and George! 

Image: The Everett Collection

3. The cartoon Beatles went to India before the actual Beatles did.

In the season two episode "All My Loving," the lads head to India, where they use their music to tame tigers. That tale originally aired in October 1966. The following season, in "Got to Get You Into My Life," the Beatles returned to India and had their souls leave their bodies. That was September '67. Transcendental Meditation was certainly the rage amongst turned-on musicians at the time, notably the Beach Boys. (To be fair, George had used a sitar on "Norwegian Wood" in 1965 and the raga-inspired "Love You To" came out in August '66.) But the Beatles did not attend the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's TM seminar in Wales until August '67 — and they did not travel to India themselves until February 1968!

Image: King Features Syndicate

4. The episode "Paperback Writer" predicted the future, too.

The season-two finale also demonstrated some eerie seer abilities. In "Paperback Writer," we see Paul get knighted and become Sir Paul. McCartney would be the first Beatle knighted in 1997. It took 20 more years until the crown dubbed the drummer Sir Ringo in 2017.

Image: King Features Syndicate

5. It's filled with loads of Beatles song.

The Beatles themselves may not have participated in the cartoon at all, but the animated series did feature loads of the band's brilliant music, pulling tunes from across the catalog, from 1963–67. There were even episodes named after deep, psychedelic Revolver cuts like "Tomorrow Never Knows." The season-three premiere utilized the recently released single "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" in 1967. Licensing that much Beatles music does not come cheap these days. Which is probably why you don't see the cartoon anywhere.

Image: King Features Syndicate

6. It was made by the folks who did Yellow Submarine.

Series creator Al Brodax, producer George Dunning and animators such as Ron Campbell would all go on to produce the trippy animated masterpiece Yellow Submarine in 1968. At first, because they were no fans of the Saturday morning cartoon, the Beatles did not participate in Yellow Submarine. The artistic merit of the end product convinced them otherwise — and John, Paul, George and Ringo appeared in a live-action epilogue to the film. Though, the more cynical take might be that the group was looking to quickly and easily fulfill its contractual obligation to United Artists.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. John came to appreciate it — eventually.

At the time The Beatles aired, the band vocally distanced themselves from the project. "All I heard was hearsay," animator/director Campbell recalled. "John was heard to have said 'Oh, that's Flintstones *@&%,' not realizing how good The Flintstones actually were." But in 1972, Lennon declared, "I still get a blast out of watching the Beatles cartoons on TV." It probably didn't hurt that the cartoon depicted John as the clear leader of the group, with Paul as a follower, George as a dilettante, and Ringo as a dope. In 1999, George would say, "I always kind of liked [the cartoons]. They were so bad or silly that they were good… I think the passage of time might make them more fun now."

Image: King Features Syndicate

 
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genZmetv 12 days ago
i remember there was a big resurgence of interest in this show a few years ago on sites like tumblr. it's so bad it's good, especially when you're making memes, haha
savoycheer 25 days ago
Back when the Beatles cartoons were first aired, I never missed watching them on Saturday a.m. TV. Such fun back then and rather hilarious.
TheDavBow3 27 days ago
I love the Beatles and have heard of the cartoons. But I never seen them.
Barry22 29 days ago
Wish they would show them again.
Ferretcrazy 29 days ago
Watched and taped them all...on the VCR. But for the life of me I don’t remember what channel. MTV maybe?
Barry22 Ferretcrazy 29 days ago
Most likely.
nightshade 1 month ago
ive only seen this series once ... for some reason kcop 13 in la decided to show like 18 hours of 50/60s cartoon shorts one year in the 80s and the beatles were like every 3rd short .......
nightshade nightshade 1 month ago
that was supposed to be one new years day in the 80s
ayesijuan 1 month ago
I remember watching these as a kid and loved because I was a huge Beatles fan and saw them on Ed Sullivan when they first appeared. I bought a crappy DVD version from eBay years ago for my kids and they love watching them. I am hoping to find a better version
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
I don't think I have ever seen these cartoons.
OldTVfanatic 1 month ago
I used to love the Beatles cartoon when I was a kid, and really made appreciate their musical ability.
dmagoon 1 month ago
Ong thing, with the show showing a dollar-based economy, Liverpudlians speaking generic British English, etc. "The Beatles"was not (in story-telling) educational.
UTZAAKE 1 month ago
Most memorable for me was the music used to introduce the cartoon segments.

King Features Syndicate was obviously the series' primary production company.
HeppCat 1 month ago
"BeatleToons, The Real Story Behind The Cartoon Beatles" by Mitchell Axelrod is a great book that came out in the early '90's with lots of information and great behind-the-scenes/making-of anecdotes. Dig it.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/35607
lynngdance 1 month ago
I think there a bit inaccurate on #3 about predicting they would go to India. True, they had not gone to India to see the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi yet, but they did go to India to do a concert in July 1966, which would mean that the episode aired after they had already been there.
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And very funny! Great episode.
Awesome! Yeah I’ve seen that episode. When I found out they were on Laugh-in I was very excited ( I think I’ve seen that episode 5 times LOL)
Oh and also I listened to Wichita Train Whistle on YouTube (Amazon Music didn’t have it 😡) and yes it is very different and creative. Can’t say it’s my favorite of his though lol. Speaking of different Nez songs, have you listened to “The New Recruit”? It’s from back when his name was Michael Blessing.
Krn lynngdance 1 month ago
Hey Lynn where are you watching Laugh In? I would love to see it again 🙂
LucyImHome1951 1 month ago
Very cool. I don't have much cartoon Beatles items. I do have some oddball stuff. One of the weirdest is a piece of Beatles wallpaper from 1964 and the first Beatles lunch box. Look like a cool collectors call.
Beatles wallpaper? COOL!
Lantern 1 month ago
This cartoon was my introduction to the Beatles. I was in nursery school when they hit America in 1964, so I was a little young to have experienced that. But all kids watch Saturday morning cartoons, so when the show debuted in 1965, I watched it along with all the other cartoons, and came to realize that the Beatles actually existed.
Johnnyfever1 1 month ago
I've got all the episodes on DVD! No joke I bought it back in 2001 the entire set they're homemade but there worth every penny
MarkLungo 1 month ago
I'd love to see the Beatles cartoon on MeTV. Or anywhere, really.
nd1irish 1 month ago
In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea.
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines...
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