|Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids|
|Also known as|
|Created by||Bill Cosby|
|Directed by||Hal Sutherland|
|Creative director||Don Christensen|
|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||"Gonna Have A Good Time (Fat Albert Theme)" (Performed by Michael Gray)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||110 + 5 specials (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer||Bill Cosby|
|Production location||United States|
|Distributor||Group W Productions|
|Original release||September 9, 1972 –|
August 10, 1985
|Preceded by||Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert (1969)|
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was an American animated television series created, produced, and hosted (in live action bookends) by comedian Bill Cosby, who also lent his voice to a number of characters, including Fat Albert and himself. Filmation was the production company for the series. The show premiered in 1972 and ran until 1985 (with new episodes being produced sporadically during that time frame). The show, based on Cosby's remembrances of his childhood gang, focused on Fat Albert (known for his catchphrase "Hey hey hey!"), and his friends.
The show features an educational lesson in each episode, emphasized by Cosby's live-action segments. In addition, at the end of the early episodes, the gang typically joins in their North Philadelphia junkyard to play a song on their cobbled-together instruments, summarizing the show's lesson.
The character Fat Albert first appeared in Bill Cosby's stand-up comedy routine "Buck Buck," as recorded on his 1967 album Revenge. The stories were based upon Cosby's tales about growing up in inner city North Philadelphia. In 1969, Cosby and veteran animator Ken Mundie brought Fat Albert to animation in a prime-time special entitled Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert.
The special, which aired on NBC, was a hybrid of live action and animation. The music for the special was written and performed by jazz pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock in 1969 and was released on the Warner Bros. album Fat Albert Rotunda. For the animated portion of the special, it was necessary to develop the actual appearance of each of the Fat Albert Gang's characters. For this, Ken Mundie relied on animator Amby Paliwoda, a former Disney artist. Paliwoda not only created all the Gang's characters, but painted a "group portrait" which was eventually shown on the front page of TV Guide magazine shortly before the showing of the special.
The producers wanted NBC to bring Fat Albert to Saturday mornings, but the network programming managers rejected because the series was too educational. Bill Cosby and a new production company, Filmation Associates, then took the property to CBS. The Fat Albert gang's character images were primarily created by the artist Randy Hollar, with the assistance of one-time Disney animator Michelle McKinney, under the direction of Ken Brown.
Retitled Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, the series premiered on September 9, 1972, on CBS. Production lasted for 12 years, though production of the series was not continuous. It also spent another season in first-run syndication (1984–85). Three prime-time holiday specials (Halloween, Christmas, and Easter) featuring the characters were also produced. Like most Saturday morning cartoons of the era, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids contained an adult laugh track, which was eliminated during the final season. The series was rerun on NBC Saturday mornings and on the USA Network in 1989.
On January 15, 2013, Bill Cosby posted the following on his Facebook page: "I'm telling you there are people at work who, I think, will make Fat Albert happen again. And it will be loved by all generations to come", hinting that the series might be brought back once again. No further word has been given yet.[original research?][additional citation(s) needed]
Lou Scheimer, Erika Scheimer, Keith Allen, Lane Vaux, Pepe Brown, Dementra McHenry, Eric Suter, and Gerald Edwards provided additional voices.
Main article: List of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids episodes
Fat Albert was honored and noted for its educational content, which included Cosby earning a Doctorate in Education. In every show's opening Cosby would playfully warn:
This is Bill Cosby comin' at you with (lots of) music and fun, and if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done.
So let's get ready, OK? (Fat Albert voice) Hey, hey, hey!
During each episode, Fat Albert and his friends (aka The Junkyard Gang), dealt with an issue or problem commonly faced by children, ranging from stage fright, first loves, medical operations, and personal hygiene to more serious themes (though toned down for younger children) including vandalism, stealing, racism, rape, smoking, being scammed by con artists, sexually transmitted diseases, child abuse, kidnapping, drug use, gun violence, and death.
At the end of most episodes (with some exceptions in the case of particularly serious themes), the gang would sing a song about the theme of the day. This sequence, similar to those seen in other Filmation shows including The Archie Show, has often been parodied. The musical sequence was dropped during the Brown Hornet/Legal Eagle years.
The series enjoyed one of the longest runs in the history of Saturday morning cartoons.
In 1979, the show was re-titled The New Fat Albert Show and featured a new segment titled "The Brown Hornet" detailing the adventures of a black crime fighter in outer space whose design resembled a caricature of Bill Cosby, who also performed vocal talents on the character.
In 1984, the show was syndicated and renamed The Adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. The lack of network restrictions allowed the producer to delve into more mature subject matter. A notable episode ("Busted") featured the kids having an inadvertent brush with the law and given a Scared Straight!-style tour of an occupied maximum security prison; it even contained utterances (by the jail's inmates) of the words "damn" and "bastard" (Cosby had appeared in the beginning of the episode advising viewers that those words would be used as part of the story's dialogue to realistically depict jail life). Another notable episode, "Gang Wars", featured a child being shot and killed. Another segment was added: "Legal Eagle", a crime-fighting eagle with a pair of bumbling police deputy squirrels. Production of new episodes ceased in 1985.
The theme song, "Gonna Have a Good Time", was composed by Ricky Sheldon and Edward Fournier, and performed by Michael Gray (vocals), Kim Carnes (background vocals) and Edward Fournier (background vocals).
A cover of the show's theme song, performed by Dig, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall and released on MCA Records. The song's chorus ("Na-na-na, gonna have a good time!") was also sampled in Fatboy Slim's 1998 hit single "Praise You".
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was named the 82nd best animated series by IGN.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids received an Emmy nomination in 1974. Production of the final season of the series overlapped with the start of production of Bill Cosby's live-action sitcom, The Cosby Show, which began airing on NBC in fall 1984.
In 1993, TV Guide magazine named Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids the best cartoon series of the 1970s in its issue celebrating 40 years of television.
In 2002, Fat Albert was placed at number 12 on TV Guide's list of the 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time.
In 2020, Joyce Slaton of Common Sense Media argued that the series is an "old-school cartoon...[with] strong positive messages." She noted that while the show's themes like kidnapping, racism, and child abuse may cause parents to be concerned, there is "fresh humor, funky music, and the strong positive messages".
As of 2013, Fat Albert was seen Saturday mornings on Retro Television Network (RTV), TheCoolTV, and weekdays and weekends on Bounce TV, both of which are digital networks. It was also seen weekdays on the now-defunct Sky Angel services Angel Two and Kids & Teens TV, as well as World Harvest Television. Fat Albert was also available streaming online from HallmarkSpiritClips.com.
As of July 2015, Fat Albert was no longer on Bounce TV's lineup. Bounce TV had previously pulled the comedy series Cosby from their lineup in the wake of the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations, but it is unclear if the cancelations of the Fat Albert episodes was related to these allegations. However, several months after returning reruns of The Cosby Show in December 2016, Bounce TV quietly re-added Fat Albert to its schedule in March 2017, until it was eventually removed from the schedule again in late April 2018.
During the mid-1980s, Thorn EMI Video released several volumes of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids on VHS as part of their "Children's Matinee" line of animated programs, with each cassette typically containing three episodes. Additional volumes were released later in the decade by Video Treasures, including the three holiday specials.
In 2004, UrbanWorks Entertainment acquired the rights to the series, subsequently releasing several Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids DVDs including a two-volume collection featuring 24 episodes, as well as all specials to coincide with the theatrical release of the feature film adaptation. Volume 1 contains two DVDs with episodes 1–12 (airdates 9/9–11/25/1972), along with a CD containing the opening theme, the closing theme, and 12 songs from each of the 12 episodes shown in vol. 1  Volume 2 contains two discs with episodes 13–24 (airdates 12/2/1972–9/13/1975), along with a CD containing the opening theme, the closing theme, and 12 songs from each of the 12 episodes shown in vol. 2. In addition, UrbanWorks Entertainment released a Greatest Hits four-disc DVD box set, containing 20 uncut episodes in their original broadcast presentation and original airdate order, as well as a five-best episodes set via Ventura Distribution.
In 2008, Classic Media acquired the rights to the series and stated at the time that they intended to release the entire series on DVD. This never happened as they only re-released The Fat Albert Halloween Special and The Fat Albert Easter Special on DVD via distribution partner Genius Products.
On April 6, 2012, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series (under license from Classic Media) and planned to release a complete series box set on DVD. The DVD set was released on June 25, 2013.
On September 4, 2012, Classic Media re-released all three holiday specials together in one collection entitled The Hey Hey Hey Holiday Collection on DVD in Region 1.
Gold Key Comics did a comic book adaptation of Fat Albert, which ran for 29 issues, from 1974 to 1979.
In 2004, 20th Century Fox released a film adaptation of the series titled Fat Albert. The film stars Kenan Thompson as Fat Albert, Kyla Pratt, and Bill Cosby. The film acts as a sequel to the series where Fat Albert and the boys journey into the real world after jumping out of a television in order to help a lonely girl named Doris (Kyla Pratt) with her social anxiety. The boys enjoy being in the real world but after a meeting with their creator, Bill Cosby, Fat Albert is informed that if he and the others do not return to the television world immediately, they will turn into celluloid dust.