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Western Animation / The Lone Ranger (1966)

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When the factories first began to send their pall of smoke over the cities, and farmlands of the East offered only the barest living, Americans turned their faces toward the West. They poured into the new territory by the thousands—fording the mighty rivers, climbing the mountains, fighting Indians and outlaws—praying...toiling...dying.
It was a hard land, a hostile land. Only the strong survived...a new American breed—the pioneer.
In this forge upon this anvil was hammered out a man who became a legend...a daring and resourceful man who hated thievery and oppression.
His face masked...his true name unknown...with his faithful Indian companion at his side, he thundered across the West on his great white stallion, appearing out of nowhere to strike down injustice and outlawry...and then, vanishing as mysteriously as he came.
His sign: a silver bullet.
His name: The Lone Ranger!!!

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.
  • Avenging the Villain:
    • Bear Claw, from the episode of the same name, swears vengeance on the Lone Ranger for his brother Keigo's death in the first half of the episode.
    • "The Avenger" revolves around a vengeful Indian chief named Natanka whose son has become a costumed vigilante to punish those who have wronged his father.
  • Bulletproof Vest: When the Avenger shows up to kill his last two targets, the government agent opens fire on him, only to watch in horror as the bullets bounce off. The Avenger even takes a moment to gloat that he has been made "indestructible" by White science, before revealing he wears a protective vest of bulletproof metal under his costume.
  • 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.
  • Dread Zeppelin: The Hawk, from the episode of the same name, is a mad German whose plan is to conquer the USA with a flotilla of zeppelins armed with bombs and gatling guns, with the zeppelins having been stylized to resemble screaming giant hawks when seen from the front.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Bear Claw loves his brother Keigo and swears a blood vendetta against the Lone Ranger when Keigo dies trying to escape him.
    • Natanka and his son share a strong familial love for each other despite their vengefulness; Natanka is absolutely horrified when it seems his son has drowned fighting Tonto, and breaks down weeping, tearfully proclaiming that not even revenge is worth that price.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • In one episode, upon meeting a young man who has come to idolize criminals and outlaws after reading about them in dime novels, the Ranger disguises himself as an outlaw and takes the kid to a famous hideout for outlaws, putting him in harm's way so he can see what his idols are really like as people.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Some of the villains usually meet a final end or fate that fits their situation.
    • "Quicksilver" had the title thief use an untested chemical to gain super speed. He had three doses of it left, but used them all at once to make sure the Ranger couldn't stop him. The chemicals rapidly aged Quicksilver, and he lamented that in a matter of days, he'd gone through seventy years.
    • "Forest of Death" had Tonto burn down a forest where a mad scientist had spent years breeding his killer plants to prevent them from harming mankind.
    • "Mastermind" had the title villain (a robber gang leader with intelligent plans that could challenge the Ranger) and his gang hauled away in a "prison coach"/"Paddy wagon" since he'd vowed he could escape before he got to jail.
    • "Kingdom of Terror" had him fight two former royals who were exiled, and now trying to make a "kingdom" in America. In the end, the royals are hauled to prison, and their castle is seen burning by those who they tried to force into serving them.
    • "Puppet Master" had his own puppets turn on him after the Ranger could control them.
    • In "Bear Claw", the titular villain's brother Keigo attempts to blow the Ranger up with dynamite, only to trip and be caught in the explosion of his own dynamite. Bear Claw himself ends up being defeated when he attacks the Ranger in a forest, only for his talons to get stuck in the thick bark of a tree, leaving him defenseless before the Ranger's swift knockout punch.
  • Master of Disguise: The Lone Ranger is one. Some of his disguises include:
    • An Expy of Don Quixote (with a sombrero-wearing Tonto as his "Sancho Panza") in "El Conquistador" against El Terrible, a bandito.
    • "Man of Silver" had the Ranger disguise himself as the foreman to "The Lone Star," a silver mine the Ranger owned (and where he got his supply of silver bullets).
    • "Circus of Death" had Tonto disguised a "Circus Indian" while the Ranger was disguised as a clown (he later took off the disguise when he gave a silver bullet to the Sheriff).
    • Once against a robber "land pirate" and his gang, the Ranger played "Blackie," the second of the gang after capturing the real Blackie.
  • 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.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax:
    • One episode revolves around a band of crooks pretending to be the ghosts of vengeful Indian warriors risen from their graves in an attempt to scare off the local tribe so they could claim the land for themselves.
    • In "The Ghost Riders", the titular pair of bandits use ghost costumes and glow-in-the-dark paint to pretend to be phantoms in order to terrorize their victims and mislead would-be pursuers.
  • 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.)