When I was a kid, I loved Top Cat. This was the lesser known of the primetime cartoons put out by Hanna-Barbera in the early sixties. The better known were the Flintstones and the Jetsons, which I also enjoyed, but I especially liked Top Cat. It seemed more hip. I liked cats, and I liked the voices and the urban milieu. I watched it in black and white, because we only had a black and white tv set throughout my entire childhood. Color sets were for rich people. I wanted to live in Top Cat’s world, free of parents, just living in a trash can in an alley, and having lots of cat friends. I liked the show so much that I formed a club, The Top Cat Club. I wrote it in big letters all over my notebook at school, which led to a lot of teasing. Nobody else seemed interested in the club but me. The show was based on street gangs of New York. Tom Cat was the leader, Benny the ball was the short blue cat that was TC’s sidekick. Choo Choo was my favorite. He was tall, pink, wore a turtleneck, talked like Woody Allen. He was the original inspiration for Lady Gaga I believe, in the episode Choo Choo goes Gaga Gaga. There was also the gang’s dummy, obviously named Brain, Fancy Fancy who was the ladies man with a voice like Cary Grant, and Spook, the beatnik in sunglasses. They were always having to contend with this very generic NY cop named Officer Dribble. I think I was taken in by the fact that cats had not been given this much characterization before. As I grew older, about ten or so, I formed a club with a girl, called The Man from UNCLE club. Obviously I had moved on from cartoons to the much more hip spy tv show. But I still recall the appeal of Top Cat. Seeing the episodes in color as an adult was an additional thrill. I had no idea that one cat was pink, another blue etc. Top Cat has never been given it’s due.
This wasn’t the only cat cartoon I liked as a kid. I adored Gay Purree, a movie with Judy Garland, and Robert Goulet. It took place in France, which I liked. When I was a kid, France seemed very romantic and exotic. I identified with the main character, who I think was called Pierre. He was a yellow tabby farm cat, very good natured, and in love with the white Persian, Musette. Robert Goulet did his voice. He had a kitten sidekick, who was my favorite character. Of course, I was charmed by Judy Garland’s voice. She, of course, is Musette. Musette gets kidnapped by the evil Parisian sewer cats. The movie had a nice style about it, very early sixties in it’s approach. Which means it had a kind of hip, beatnik quality, toned down obviously for kids. But the look of the film is probably it’s best feature. I really liked the highly stylized black villain cats. The plot wasn’t riveting, but I liked it. It charmed me as a kid. I even had the comic book based on the movie. Much later the Aristocats came out. Gay Purree and Aristocats are the only mainstream cat cartoons I can think of. Aristocats has a certain charm as well, but my heart belongs to Gay Purree.