Western Animation: Top Cat

From left to right: Officer Dibble, Fancy-Fancy, Benny the Ball, Top Cat, Choo-Choo, Spook, Brain

Hanna-Barbera produced this Animated Series for ABC in 1961. Unlike the studio's earlier series, Top Cat was set in the midst of New York City. Even before the first episode was broadcast, Bill Hanna knew that Top Cat was going to be popular.

Top Cat led his gang of alley cats through one Zany Scheme after another, keeping the cats ahead of Officer Charlie Dibble, the local beat cop. The series obviously took a page from The Phil Silvers Show, with "T.C." (as his gang called him) based on Phil Silvers' Sgt. Ernie Bilko.

In the late 1980s, Arnold Stang reprised his Top Cat role in the syndicated series Yogi's Treasure Hunt and the Made-for-TV Movie Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats. In 1990, T.C. and Choo-Choo had an entry in the Fender Bender 500 segment of Wake Rattle And Roll. Top Cat and his gang have also appeared on Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

A traditionally animated Top Cat movie has been released in 2011 in Mexico, where the show has been especially popular in the past decades note .

This series provides examples of:

  • Animated Series
  • A Father to His Men: Top Cat is hinted to be this to his gang.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In one episode where Officer Dibble has been replaced by another, even more strict, police officer, who is so zealous that he is drawing public complaints to his superior for being excessive. To get rid of him, T.C. convinces said officer that the city's mayor is Cha-cha Charlie, a gangster wanted by police for extortion, smuggling and leading a dance school without permission.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Black Bead Eyes: Benny. Also Dibble in the show, but he gained sclerae in modern depictions, as seen above.
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Though not the laziest bum in the box, T.C. tends to rely on the others to do the manual work while he does the mental work.
  • The Butler Did It: "The Missing Heir" and "Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats".
  • Butt Monkey: Dibble and sometimes Benny.
  • Captivity Harmonica
  • The Casanova: Fancy-Fancy, in a PG-rated sort of way.
  • Casting Gag: Benny was the Doberman character and was fittingly voiced by Doberman himself, Maurice Gosfield.
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted—Top Cat may be a con artist, but he's also a pretty decent guy. He once helped out an immigrant hot dog vendor who had been conned (unbeknownst to the vendor) by another pair of swindlers.
    • On the other hand, he was planning on scamming him himself...
      • The movie makes his decent side clearer, as he not only saves an old woman from being squashed, he makes it clear to his gang when they suggest stealing someone's tickets to an event that they will only steal from someone who deserves it. He is also shocked to learn that he has been accused of stealing from an orphanage.
  • The Charmer: TC, big time.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Benny and Brain
  • Coin-on-a-String Trick: Seen in the opening credits.
  • Completely Different Title: Don Gato (kinda like Mr. Cat) in Latin America. While most English-speaking tropers only hear the term Don in the context of a stereotypical mafia boss, the term as used in Mexico has nothing to do with criminals. It's more a term of respect and endearment for the topmost authoritative figure in a community, although usually only used in rural or low-income communities. It's a very fitting translation to the name Top Cat, that even better portrays how his followers feel about him.
    • In Brazil is Manda-Chuva, which is an old term used to design leaders.
  • Cool Cat: Top Cat and company, particularly Spook.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass : Officer Dibble; Top Cat can make him look like a moron, but Dibble proves himself a very brave, competent cop whenever facing a seriously dangerous criminal; he actually gets into gunfights with bank robbers and other delinquents, usually arresting them in the end.
  • Deadpan Snarker / Cats Are Snarkers: TC.
    TC: [to Dibble] I'd suggest a battle of wits, but you're only half-prepared.
  • Depth Deception: Twice in the opening credits.
  • The Ditz: Brain.
  • Friendly Enemies: TC and Dibble. The former will always find a way to humiliate the latter, while the latter is deliriously happy at every opportunity to arrest TC. But they'd give their lives for each other just as quickly.
  • The Fettered: Officer Dibble. He's passionately devoted to his duty, even when his duty causes him great grief and makes him the butt of all jokes.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: All over the place.
    Fancy: This is the job for me; I'm an expert on curves.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal
  • Half Hour Comedy
  • The Heart: Benny
  • Hero Antagonist: Officer Dibble
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: TC, and Officer Dibble.
  • Jive Turkey: Spook.
  • Landmark Sale
  • Late to the Punchline: Getting the core joke of the series really required an understanding of period American street culture and of the likes of Damon Runyon. A lot of kids probably only understood that it was a show about a street gang full of colorful hoods some years later.
  • Laugh Track: Except in the Mexican dub.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!
  • Lovable Rogue: Top Cat and his gang, of course.
  • Meddlesome Patrolman: Officer Dibble
  • Mistaken Identity: Benny is subject to a few of these.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the episode "The Tycoon", a millionaire in search of a needy person to receive a million dollars from him learned from Benny how badly off the gang was, so he wrote out a check to Top Cat. As a result, when all the merchants found out, Top Cat and his bunch were treated like royalty. But in the end, they lost everything again because Top Cat tore up the check, thinking it was for a 25-cent raffle.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If not for the butler's plans to get rid of Benny and inherit Mrs. Vandergelt's fortune, Top Cat and his gang wouldn't have found her missing niece.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Fancy's voice is basically Cary Grant.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Brain is not very smart. In the comics, however, he's just as intelligent as his name implies.
  • On One Condition: In "The Missing Heir", a rich person's disappeared cat had a deadline to reappear or else the butler would get the inheritance. Benny was mistaken for the missing cat, turning him into the target of the butler's ire. The real cat then appeared and got the money despite having missed the deadline. The viewers were left to assume that it was because it was the butler who caused the disappearance in the first place.
    • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: With the disappearance of Mrs. Vandergelt's niece Amy Vandergelt, Benny was the next in line for the inheritance. (Mrs. Vandergelt had other relatives but despised them all for unspecified reasons.) Provided that Amy didn't return and nothing bad happened to Benny in the next 48 hours, he'd get the inheritance. If something happened to him, the butler would get the money.
  • Playing Cyrano: Top Cat does it for Choo-Choo. As usual with this plan, it does not end well.
  • Punny Name: The Mexican dub excelled at giving these to main characters and one-shots. The original version was more straightforward.
  • Real Vehicle Reveal: In the opening credits, Top Cat appears to be riding in the back of a limousine. However, as the car turns a corner, it is revealed he is actually riding on the fender.
  • Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Officer Dibble, every time he speaks to his superiors (or someone else) over the phone.
  • Ring Around the Collar
  • Serial Romeo: Choo-Choo. Poor guy.
  • Shout-Out: Lots. In Farewell, Mr. Dibble, for instance, Top Cat paraphrases Finians Rainbow.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Almost a Running Gag. Dibble sneezes while disguising himself as a statue when a curator dusts his face (curator says "Gesundheit"), Choo-Choo gives the gang away when they are hiding from gangsters (T.C. stops him with the finger trick, but then lets go) and Benny sneezes thrice in the show: first time he explodes a barrel, second time he explodes a safe and the third time he explodes a building.
  • Talking Animal
  • True Companions
  • Villain Protagonist: T.C. is only this in the loosest sense of the term. He runs a street gang of cats and constantly schemes to get rich, but he rarely does anything evil.
  • Violin Scam
  • Wraparound Background: Well, this is Hanna-Barbera, after all.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Known in the United Kingdom as Boss Cat, as there was a British cat food brand called Top Cat. Only the on-screen title was changed, the theme tune still used "Top Cat".
    • The closing credits also contained a very jarring and noticeable edit in order to remove the part where "Top Cat" appears on screen towards the end.
    • This has long since been a defunct trope however, everyone in the UK knows him as Top Cat where the series is still quite popular. The original title has been restored for many many years now.
  • Xanatos Gambit: T.C. is a master at these, even when they devolve into Xanatos Speed Chess. When his plans go terribly wrong, Top Cat never ends up worse than when he started, and someone, whether Officer Dibble or one of his gang, always comes out better off.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair/Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The cats have interesting fur colors.
  • Zany Scheme