Running for three years from September 10, 1966, to September 6, 1969 on CBS, the 1966 Lone Ranger cartoon series was the first Animated Adaptation of The Lone Ranger, produced by Herb Klynn and Jules Engel of Format Films, Hollywood, and designed and made at the Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Film studios in London, England & Artransa Park Studios in Australia. It spanned 26 episodes, most of which were made up of two or three separate mini-episodes of about 6 to 7 minutes in length.
The animation was limited. But the backgrounds had a dark style, with blocks of color elided from the line, which visually set the show apart from many other cartoon TV series of the time. The distinct atmospheric music was composed by Vic Schoen, who also provided the powerful arrangement of Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture for the show's memorable opening sequence. Along with the Halas and Batchelor animators, the background department, led by Tom Bailey, Ted Petengel and designer Chris Miles, were responsible for setting the graphic style. The drawings were produced by chinagraph pencil on cell. Colored papers were cut or torn under or against the lines of the background, producing a dramatic and rich textural effect.
This series is most notable for its distinctive Cattle Punk take on the Lone Ranger's Wild West, possibly inspired by CBS' earlier series The Wild Wild West. Many stories revolve around Steampunk level technology or pulp-inspired stories.
Tropes present in this animated adaptation include:
- Arch-Enemy: Terrible Tiny Tom, a diminutive mad genius who made the most appearances in the various episodes. It's left ambiguous if he's a Depraved Dwarf with the mentality of a nasty little boy that likes hurting people and stealing things despite his formidable intelligence, or if he genuinely is a nasty little boy who likes hurting people and stealing things and his intelligence is greater than his emotional maturity. He showed up in the following episodes, with the following schemes:
- "Attack of the Lilliputians": Dressed as a general and using an army of animated toy soldiers armed with real guns to try and conquer the US.
- "Terror in Toyland": Escaping from custody and using toys as weapons to rob trains.
- "Thomas The Great": Attempting to conquer a swathe of the Wild West with intimidated Indian troops and an armored elephant with a Gatling gun mounted on its back.
- "Death Hunt": Capturing the Lone Ranger and forcing him to run through a maze of deadly traps.
- "The Terrible Tiny Tom": Smuggling himself onto trains carrying valuables by hiding in a mail bag so he can rob them.
- "The Iron Giant": Attacking carriages and then villages inside of a Steampunk Giant Robot.
- "Battle at Barnaby's Bend": Leading out a spring of robberies with a band of either dwarves or children using spring-loaded boots to bounce around their victims so they can't be shot.
- "The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist": Fighting a final gunman's duel against the Lone Ranger, using bizarre mechanical weaponry of his own devising to try and counter the Lone Ranger's superior gunmanship.
- Cattle Punk: Steampunk science and pulp stories abounded in this series, including fights against strange cults, giant bees, a white-furred Sasquatch, Aztec remnants, a valley full of cavemen and dinosaurs, and more Mad Scientists than you can shake a stick at.
- Giant Robot: Twice, in fact! The episodes "The Iron Giant" and "The Human Dynamo" both feature one.
- Good Is Not Nice: The Lone Ranger and Tonto may be heroes, but they're not above some nasty lessons when they need to. In particular, the episode "Hunter and Hunted" has Tonto punish a band of reckless, wasteful buffalo hunters by systematically gaslighting them through the night, picking them off one by one so they can get a first hand taste of the fear that animals can feel when hunted.
- Never Say "Die": Averted. The intro theme includes the word "dying" with considerable emphasis, and the terms "death", "die" and "kill" show up sporadically in the cartoons themselves.
- What Have I Done: In "The Avenger", when the vengeful Indian chief Natanka believes his son has been drowned in an attempt to fight Tonto to avenge his father's honor, he breaks down in tears and comes to regret his grooming the youth to be an instrument of vengeance.
- When Trees Attack: The episode "Forest of Death" revolves around Tonto tracking down a Mad Scientist expelled from the botanical academy for his experiments in creating "super species of near-human killer plants". In the episode, he encounters a white lily-like bloom that creates deadly poisonous gas; a literal strangler vine; a mangrove tree that uses its hand-shaped roots to grab people and drag them to their death in the swamp water in which it grows; cacti with lethally venomous spikes; a buttercup-like flower that shoots barbed seeds like darts which then rapidly grow into more of the same plant; and a giant carnivorous flower that nearly eats Tonto after snaring him with wiry tendrils. Ironically, the scientist's ultimate experiment — breeding walking humanoid trees as botanical soldiers — was a failure, so he intended to use an army of crooks in "treeman" costumes to fake that he'd succeeded.
- Wicked Toymaker: Tiny Tom used toys as weapons in at least two episodes; "Attack of the Lilliputians", and "Terror in Toyland".
- Wolverine Claws: The titular villain in "Bear Claw" wears clawed gloves modeled after bear paws. (Or he may actually have bear paws for hands, but that would be weird even for this show.)