Posted by: Dahni | May 31, 2008

Tom Terrific

© 05/31/08

By Dahni

Tom Terrific was an early animated cartoon series, presented as part of the Captain Kangaroo children’s television show. The series ran from 1957 – 1959. Later these were re-broadcast until a few years after 1962 when they ended.

The artist/animator was Gene Deitch and presented by Terrytoons Studio, a subsidary of CBS. It found its way into print for maybe a half a dozen books. It was never a huge commercial success and for some reason, the cartoons never made it to VHS tape or DVD media. Still, its value was far beyond monetary success. I believe it had great influence upon me personally in developing my own imagination.

Tom lived in a tree house like many of kids had growing up. These were often pretty rough and poorly constructed, but like Tom, they were affectionately thought of as our ‘World Headquarters.’  🙂

Each cartoon was roughly five minutes in length and in black and white. The series was very simple and roughly drawn without the many detailed backgrounds, sophisticated animation and other techniques that later defined the media. But there is something to be said about the complexity and intelligence of simplicity. I remember these shows and they were a part of my youth. I loved them. It’s biggest draw was in engaging the imagination.

Tom Terrific was in all practicality just an average boy, with one distinct difference. He had a magic ‘thinking cap’ which was really nothing more than a funnel. But when engaged, it would enhance his intelligence and he could transform himself into anything imaginable.

Each five minute ‘toon’ had a plot and often foes particularly, arch-foe named Crabby Appleton, whose motto was “Rotten to the core!”  Accompanied by his reluctant dog that perhaps preferred sleep over adventure, Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog, hardly ever left his side. Something would always happen, some foe would devise some scheme and Tom Terrific would have to ‘save the day.’ At the point of problem, I distinctly remember the announcer or Tom looking at us and saying, “Put on your thinking caps boys and girls.” It was as if Tom’s power and intelligencefrom the thinking cap was enhanced, powered by or funneled (pun unintended), through the audience participation.

I could relate to this character, as he was a boy like myself and it was like I went on adventures with Tom and Manfred. Tom could change into such things as a plane or a train or anything he needed to become. But you could still tell it was him. His familiar curls sticking out in the center of his forehead, under his ‘Thinking Cap,’ funnel hat were always clear, it was still Tom.

As his name, Tom was just ‘terrific. It was much more than entertainment. These programs were adventures and they were early trainings in thinking and using the imagination. We did not need a lot of ‘stuff’ to keep amused, just our imagination.

Tom Terrific was ranked by TV Guide magazine among its “50 Greatest TV Cartoon Characters”.

I was so happy to find one of the early and original broadcasts on in its entirety and was happy to share it here with you. Unfortunately it has been removed. You might try to ‘google it’ or ‘YouTube it’ to see if is available again. If you find it, try to watch it as if you were a child again and had never seen a cartoon before otherwise, you may be disappointed and miss its true value.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane to Nostalgia Park of my childhood. You too can be as Tom, terrific! Just put on your ‘thinking cap’ and…

…Just Imagine,


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