Remembering 'Curiosity Shop,' the forgotten live-action show from Looney Tunes legend Chuck Jones

This Saturday morning series introduced Schoolhouse Rock!

Everett Collection / ABC

Read to Me

Chuck Jones helped shape your childhood. The animator was the best-known of the Looney Tunes creators, as beloved characters like Marvin the Martian, Michigan J. Frog, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were born from his imagination. He directed beloved Bugs Bunny shorts such as "Wackiki Wabbit" and "What's Opera, Doc?" — and gave us the brilliant Daffy classic "Duck Amuck."

Beyond Looney Tunes, Jones rebooted Tom and Jerry in the 1960s and, of course, crafted the perennial Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

What you may not realize is that Chuck Jones made live-action entertainment, too.

Fifty years ago, the ABC network turned its Saturday morning schedule into a Chuck Jones showcase. Kids could kick off their day with The Road Runner Show and wrap up their morning with Curiosity Shop, an educational Sesame Street-like program that blended puppetry, child stars, stop-motion animation and cartoons. 

For the puppets, the show tapped marionette master Bob Baker, who in 1963 opened his Bob Baker Marionette Theater, now the oldest children's theater company in Los Angeles. Baker's creations included Flip, an orange hippo; Nostalgia, an elephant; and Baron Balthazar, a European man with a white mustache and top hat.

The human cast included Pamelyn Ferdin, who herself had a hand in cartoon history, as she voiced Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts cartoons. (She also nearly landed the lead role in The Exorcist.) That's her with the pigtails to the right of the hippopotamus in the image above.

Granny TV, a vintage television set "character," would show clips from classic silent films featuring comedy legends Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

With Chuck Jones aboard as a producer / creator, naturally there were some fresh cartoon characters, too, including a literal "book worm" named Professor S. I. Trivia.

Kellogg's backed the show as a sponsor. Yet, Curiosity Shop lasted a brief, single season.

However, those mere 17 episodes offered a handful of historical firsts.

The pilot episode aired in primetime on September 2, 1971. Shirley Jones (pictured up top on the far right) from The Partridge Family starred in this premiere. But perhaps the biggest name in that first episode was "Three Is a Magic Number." This famous Multiplication Rock segment was the first-ever airing of the influential and unforgettable Schoolhouse Rock! series.

Yep, Schoolhouse Rock! premiered in the Curiosity Shop premiere.

There was another piece of animated history on this show. Hank Ketcham, creator of the Dennis the Menace newspaper comic strip, popped in as a guest star and presented the first animated cartoons of Dennis the Menace.

While by today's standards a single, 17-episode season seems like a flop, we should remember that H.R. Pufnstuf lasted the same amount of time. You could make a big impact over the span of an autumn.

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inHYPHENcorrect 17 days ago
If Curiosity Shop magically resurfaces just as The Jokers Wild did, it will not be able to be officially released as there would be numerous Intellectual Property disputes, not unlike The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour. ... And another Game Show I would like to see resurface is: The All New Jeopardy! with Art Fleming and a Golden game board instead of Blue Screen Of Death Blue.
Margaret 1 month ago
I wish that ABC-TV hadn't wiped away all those episodes of Curiosity Shop because, like other people, I would still like to see that Halloween episode about fright that featured Vincent Price as guest star and master of scaremonies and see if I can find a part of the episode that inspired a scary dream about him that I had back in 1973. The dream went something like this; I dreamed that Vincent Price and I were in a Haunted house setting similar to the Curiosity Shop set in the Halloween episode, and he was sitting in the same black armchair, his favorite chair, that he sat in on the show, and I stood at the left of the armchair. He said something in the dream that I can't recall, like some kind of magic incantation, then the setting got totally dark and gave me quite a scare, and he went into his now-famous evil laugh as if he didn't even know that I was there in the room with him. I got panicky and started to cry and begged him to bring light back into the room and he did. He became sympathetic with me when I told him about myself and my visual impairment, all the cataract surgeries that I had on my eyes. We talked for a while, then I started to leave the setting and he called me back to his favorite chair and gave me a kiss on the right cheek and said goodbye to me in a voice that sounded as if my story broke his heart, and I left the setting after that.
tim_kangaroo 1 month ago
I remember this show! There was also a very limited amount of merchandise available at the time.

I also hear that no prints or recordings exist of this -- I hope I'm wrong about that! Even so, given the show's history and lackluster performance, it is unlikely we'll ever see a home video release of this unique program.
mattsteveo 1 month ago
That show made being a kid a fun thing,one of my very favorite shows.
Margaret 2 months ago
I remember watching Curiosity Shop on ABC-TV back in 1972 when the show was in repeats on Sunday mornings during the 1972-1973 season. I enjoyed watching that show a lot, even though I was in my 20s at the time. There was one episode that I will never forget. It was the Halloween episode of the show where the subject was fright, and it featured Vincent Price as the guest star and Master of Scaremonies. This episode inspired a scary dream I had about him back in 1973, and in that dream he and I were in a Haunted house setting just like that Curiosity Shop episode was set in, and he frightened me with darkness and it gave me quite a scare. I don't remember any darkness in the Halloween episode of Curiosity Shop, but there was darkness in the scary dream I had about Vincent Price. What made me have that dream about him, I wish I knew.
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audie65 2 months ago
I remember watching this show. I really liked it a lot at the time I was 6. Whenever I asked about it no one remembered it. I remember the young girl who was the star was in a lot of stuff in the 70's.. think i saw her on night gallery the other day. Would love to see it on METV!!
jaelinsmith40652 2 months ago
Unbelievable to man who made my day to be so jollyful about animation was so inspiring.
AEDC49 2 months ago
Yes it originally had aired was introduced during prime time so all the family could watch then started at the Classic more or less kids weekends morning time! Etc!
JoeSHill 2 months ago
"CURIOSITY SHOP" was one of many Saturday Morning shows that debuted in Fall 1971, but this ABC-TV show was somewhat different from the standard cartoon fare, as it was a live-action and highly educational children's show that featured several children hots, and a variety of puppets and costumed characters. Chuck Jones, the former Warner Bros. animation legend was the creator and executive producer of the series, as Mr. Jones was also the Vice President of Children's programming for ABC from 1967 to 1973. "CURIOSITY SHOP" was also produced by the same people responsible for another ABC Saturday Morning series, "LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP", which debuted in Fall 1970. The stars of "CURIOSITY SHOP" was Pamelyn Ferdin, a very popular child, and teen actress back then, who is best remembered as the voice of "Lucy" on CBS's "CHARLIE BROWN" TV specials in the late 1960s, and Peter Robbins, the original "Charlie Brown" voice, also co-starred with Pamelyn Ferdin on "BLONDIE", the second of two TV sitcoms based on Chic Young's popular Sunday funnies comic strip, was a 1968 CBS series. Pamelyn Ferdin appeared in only 13 of the 17 episodes of "CURIOSITY SHOP", and the series also starred Barbara Minkus, who played "Gittle, The Good Witch", who was known for her appearances on ABC's "LOVE AMERICAN STYLE", and Kerry MacLane and Jerelyn Fields also appeared in this series as hosts (FIelds later co-starred in NBC's "THE KID SUPER POWER HOUR WITH SHAZAM" Saturday Morning TV series on NBC in Fall 1981) But, overall, "CURIOSITY SHOP" was an honest and sincere attempt to incorporate educational values to weekend TV, especially since "SESAME STREET" accomplished that very feat since its 1969 debut. and, ironically, PBS's "THE ELECTRIC COMPANY" made its TV debut just two months after "CURIOSITY SHOP". The show first aired on September 10, 1971, as an ABC sneak peek TV special that included "THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY"s Shirley Jones as a guest star, and, as this MeTV article pointed out, that the first segment of "CURIOSITY SHOP" also showcased the very first animated segment from what was to become "MULTIPLICATION ROCK", which ABC officially debuted between January or March of 1973 on their weekend lineup, and would eventually become "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK" throughout its ABC run. But, despite all its best intentions, ABC's "CURIOSITY SHOP" was later moved to Sunday Mornings along with another ABC series called "MAKE A WISH" that Tom Chapin hosted. "CURIOSITY SHOP"s last aired broadcast was September 9, 1973, and has never been circulated since. according to sources, ABC had apparently erased all of the videotapes of the 1971 TV series, but a Worldvison Enterprises TV brochure that I obtained in 1984 says that all the 17 produced shows are available for distribution, so there seems to be a contradiction of information here. In any event, "CURIOSITY SHOP" is a very rare children's series! if people surf on YouTube, you can view one of the show's original segments called "The Princess Of Pure Delite" which was a small, stop-motion segment that was narrated and by Barbara Minkus, now known as Barbara Minkus Baron. another fact was that the voices of June Foray, Bob I Holt, and Don Messick (who voiced "Woodrow, The Hedgehog" and other characters) were used in the series, which was directed by Pat Sheilds, who also directed many of the "LANCELOT LINK" episodes.
JoeSHill JoeSHill 2 months ago
Several facts that I failed to mention here, was that Vincent Price also guest-starred on "CURIOSITY SHOP" (Price had just finished playing in American International's "THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES" in Summer 1971) and, that there were also some animated "DENNIS THE MENACE" segments that also appeared in "CURIOSITY SHOP". Pamelyn Ferdin later returned to Saturday Morning TV on CBS's "SPACE ACADEMY" TV series from Filmation Associates for Fall 1977 with former "LOST IN SPACE" star, Jonathan Harris.
moax429 JoeSHill 2 months ago
If Worldvision claimed they syndicated the 17 episodes of "Curiosity Shop," then that would mean CBS Media Ventures would now own the syndication rights to the show. I hope the tapes *are indeed* still surviving - I'd like to see "Curiosity Shop" again, too (I was only 11 when it premiered)!
Margaret moax429 2 months ago
I would like to see Curiosity Shop again too, especially the Halloween episode of the show with Vincent Price as the guest star and Master of Scaremomies.
Margaret JoeSHill 2 months ago
Yes, that was Vincent Price on the Halloween episode of Curiosity Shop, and the subject of that episode was "Fright". It inspired me to have a scary dream about him too.
Can you upload the brochure?

A few things I wonder about: If Pam and Jere appeared together only in the pilot episode, and 6 episode descriptions describe Jere appearing in them, how is Pam in 13?

Also, it would seem that A.B.C. did keep the episodes for a while as they rebroadcast them Sunday Mornings after they stopped making new episodes. World Vision at the time was a syndication company for A.B.C. ...

However, World Vision also syndicated "The Old Curiosity Shop" which has an adaptation made in 1984.

Please And Thank You.

I am cautiously optimistic yet most likely going to be disappointed.
VaughnBaskin 2 months ago
Curiousity Shop deserves a reboot, make it happen MeTV!
They ought to bring back Pam and Jere as Executive Producers And Consultants.
Eh no Curiousity Shop needs to be rebooted for MeTV as a Saturday afternoon show.
UTZAAKE 2 months ago
Never watched an episode, but to this day still think its title is the most clever of any TV series ever. A play on Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop.
top_cat_james_1 2 months ago
I watched it when it aired on Sunday mornings--There was a segment when the live-action children were superimposed over a specially-drawn Dennis the Menace comic strip. There was also an animated adaption of the Berenstain Bears' "The Bike Lesson".
bre003 2 months ago
Used to love that show. Onomatopoeia was one of my favorites.
Tresix bre003 2 months ago
This show is where I first heard that word.
1221bully 2 months ago
I remember Curiosity Shop, but it was definitely short lived.
Barry22 2 months ago
Never heard of it, but it sounded interesting.
ChrisRobinson 2 months ago
Additonally, I LOVED the Curiosity Shop Weird and entertaining and right in my 10 year old wheelhouse. It even taught me my favorite word--"Onomatopoeeia" You've already talked about Uncle Croc, what about a review of "Tomfoolery"
harlow1313 ChrisRobinson 2 months ago
hiccup, drip, ding, dong, click, clack, twitter, bang, chirp, whirl, whizz, crack, squawk, clatter, sniff, buzz, snort and on and on...

My body makes all of those sounds, and many more...
It puts me in mind of a similarly unusual ABC kids show, Make a Wish. That one lasted several seasons on Sunday mornings and was hosted by singer Tom Chapin.
I remember that show too. Tom was the brother of Harry Chapin of “Cat’s in the Cradle” fame.
ChrisRobinson 2 months ago
Pamelyn Ferdin is a TV Child Star legend, running the gamut in the sixties and seventies. She made appearances in Star Trek, Space Academy and Jason of Star Command, Columbo and more I'd recommend her for a MeTV articl
Moverfan ChrisRobinson 2 months ago
She also played Tony Randall's daughter on The Odd Couple--I still think Edna Unger is a terrible thing to stick on a little tiny baby...
texasluva 2 months ago
Never heard nor watched it. It must not have been shown in my area. Basically we had 4 stations back in the early 60's 6, 8 and 10 with UHF 39. Could get 2-or 3 Los Angles stations (fuzzily) 5, 13 and another. I grew up in the San Diego area.
Same where I grew up, we got very poor reception of the ABC affiliate. That did not stop me from watching Curiosity Shop apparently.
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