King Leonardo and His Short Subjects, debuting on NBC on October 3, 1960, was the second made-for-Saturday-morning network cartoon show (Hanna-Barbera's The Ruff & Reddy Show was the first). It was the initial production of Leonardo Productions-Total Television.
King Leonardo was the leonine ruler of the kingdom Bongo Congo, whose main industry was making bongo drums. Leonardo was benevolent but prone to temper flares once in awhile. His prime minister, Odie Cologne (a skunk), produces the kingdom's second major product, perfume. Gangster rodent Biggy Rat and the king's twin brother, Itchy, seek to usurp Leonardo and place Itchy on the throne, making Bongo Congo's coffers readily available to Biggy. But Odie comes in and throws a monkey wrench into their plans.
Two episodes making up a story arc of Leonardo bookend the show. In between is either The Hunter, a clueless canine gumshoe, or Tooter Turtle, a naive terrapin who seeks Mr. Wizard the lizard in granting his wish to be somebody important (only he gets himself in hot water toward the conclusion and has Mr. Wizard bring him home).
The first season was animated by TV Spots; ensuing seasons were made by Gamma Animation in Mexico City. After three seasons on NBC, the show was made available for syndication in 15- or 30-minute installments under the new title The King and Odie. Selected episodes of all features ran concurrently on The Underdog Show and Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. Elements also became part of Dudley Do-Right and Friends in syndication.
This series provides examples of:
- Art Shift: Quite jarring between the seemingly slapdash TV Spots and the rigid but more polished Gamma. Odie's fur was black in the TV Spots episodes and gray in the Gamma episodes.
- Cain and Abel: Itchy is Cain to King Leonardo's Abel.
- The Cameo: One of the Hunter episodes, "Peek-A-Boo Pyramids", featured a brief appearance of Boris Badenov.
- King Leonardo: "Confound it!" and "That's the most unheard of thing I've ever heard of!"
- Biggy Rat: "This is Biggy talkin', see?"
- Itchy: "Okay, Big. I dig."
- Tooter: "Help me, Mr. Wizard!"
- Mr. Wizard: "Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drome...time for this one to come home!"
- Also, his Aesop to Tooter at the end of every episode:Be just vat you is,
Not vat you is not.
Folks who do this
Are the happiest lot.
- Also, his Aesop to Tooter at the end of every episode:
- The Hunter: "That's a joke, son!"
- Courtroom Episode: When Odie suggested sending Itchy and Biggy Rat to prison, a trial was held before that.
- Dynamite Candle: In the Hunter segment "Big Birthday Blast," the Fox has stolen a huge supply of dynamite and set up a fake party supply store passing off the dynamite as stuff for birthday parties, including of course, as birthday candles. At the Hunter's actual birthday party, he finds it hard to blow out the "candles," to which his nephew Horace notices the "wicks" are getting shorter, and sure enough they explode.
- Explosive Cigar: Also from "Big Birthday Blast," the Fox passes off some of the stolen dynamite as cigars, which Horace buys for his uncle the Hunter. Sure enough when the Hunter lights up a "cigar", it explodes.
- Expository Theme Song: Second stanza:Good King Leonardo has his enemies,
Biggy with his pistols and Itchy with his fleas!
They plot against the kingdom to overthrow the king,
Looks like Leonardo has had his royal fling.
But Odie-o Cologne steps in to change the play,
That loyal skunk with skill and spunk comes through to save the day!
- Evil Prince: Itchy.
- Evil Twin: Itchy.
- Full-Body Disguise: The Fox, whom was normally a Paper-Thin Disguise type of villain, tried this once in "The Case of the Hunted Hunter," impersonating the Hunter with the coat and hat, arm-length gloves and matching shoes and a Latex Perfection-style mask to commit crimes and frame the real Hunter. It fooled everyone (even though the Fox's attempts to imitate the Hunter's voice didn't even come close to the real thing) except for the Hunter's nephew Horace.
- I Just Want to Be Special: Tooter Turtle always asks Mr. Wizard to make him something important. He bites off more than he can chew and asks to come back home at episode's end.
- Irony: A perfume made by a skunk.
- King of Beasts: Leonardo.
- Non-Fatal Explosions: Played straight in the Hunter segment "Big Birthday Blast," where the Fox has sold some stolen dynamite to Horace for his uncle The Hunter's birthday party (passing them off as cigars, firecracker noisemakers and birthday candles). Fortunately the Hunter and Horace survive each of the explosions and are barely scorched from them.
- Officer O'Hara: Officer Flim Flanigan in "The Hunter" segments.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Fox loves this trope as part of his many crimes. In most cases, nobody is fooled, not even the Hunter!
- It's played with in "The Case of the Hunted Hunter." After a successful crime spree while impersonating the Hunter with by means of Latex Perfection / Full-Body Disguise, Horace sets up a plan to catch and expose the Fox by posting a fake newspaper article that Horace and the Hunter are guarding a huge supply of diamonds from a jewelry store. The Fox dons one of his usual paper-thin disguises, posing as the owner of the jewelry store, but Horace, recognizing him, says that he can only give the diamonds to his uncle the Hunter, to which the Fox dashes out and returns in his Hunter disguise, and Horace reveals that it was all a sting operation to catch him.
- Punny Name: Odie Cologne (for "eau de cologne", also a play off of "odor",), which isn't surprising as he produces perfumes.
- Shout-Out: The King had two lookalike nephews, Duke and Earl. When he got them confused, Duke would say, "I'm Duke. Th-th-that's Earl, folks!"
- Smelly Skunk: Odie. Averted in that he's not really smelly.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: When production moved to Gamma Studios, the background music (by Winston Sharples) and sound effects were all borrowed from Famous Studios/Paramount Animation.