|Created by||William Hanna|
|Written by||Barry Blitzer|
|Directed by||William Hanna|
|Voices of||Arnold Stang|
|Theme music composer||Hoyt Curtin|
|Opening theme||"The Most Effectual Top Cat"|
|Ending theme||"The Most Effectual Top Cat"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||30|
|Running time||24–27 minutes|
|Production company||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Picture format||Color (initially telecast in black and white)|
|Original release||September 27, 1961 –|
April 18, 1962
Top Cat is an American animated sitcom produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and originally broadcast in prime time on the ABC network. It aired in a weekly evening time slot from September 27, 1961, to April 18, 1962, for a single season of 30 episodes. The show was a ratings failure in prime time, but became successful upon its time on Saturday morning television. The show also became very popular in Latin American countries (especially Mexico), and the United Kingdom.
Top Cat was created as a parody of The Phil Silvers Show with Arnold Stang imitating Sgt Bilko's voice for the titular character. Hanna-Barbera sold the cartoon to ABC based on a drawing of the main character. This was only the second cartoon series to premiere on prime time network television in the United States.
The title character, Top Cat (T.C.; voiced by Arnold Stang impersonating Phil Silvers) is the leader of a gang of Manhattan alley cats living in Hoagy's Alley: Fancy-Fancy, Spook, Benny the Ball, Brain, and Choo-Choo.
Top Cat and his gang were inspired by the East Side Kids, roguish, street-smart characters from a series of 1940s B movies, but their more immediate roots lay in The Phil Silvers Show (1955–59), a successful military comedy whose lead character (Sergeant Bilko, played by Silvers) was a fast-talking con artist. Maurice Gosfield, who played Private Duane Doberman in The Phil Silvers Show, provided the voice for Benny the Ball in Top Cat, and Benny's chubby appearance was based on Gosfield's. Additionally, Arnold Stang's vocal characterization was originally based on an impression of Phil Silvers's voice. During the original network run, the sponsor objected to the Silvers impersonation—insisting that he was buying Arnold Stang, not Phil Silvers—so in later episodes Stang modified the Top Cat voice, to a closer tone of his own voice.
The gang constantly hatch get-rich-quick schemes through scams but most of them usually backfire, and a frequent plot thread revolves around the local police officer, Charles "Charlie" Dibble (voiced by Allen Jenkins), ineffectually trying to either arrest them, evict them from the alley, get them to clean the alley, or stopping them using the policebox phone.
Like The Flintstones, all the episodes feature a cold open, which is a small scene from the episode that takes place in medias res, and after that, a long flashback that leads to the scene begins with the series' theme song "The Most Effectual Top Cat" and features Top Cat's misadventures that happen before the scene from the beginning plays. The story then continues from where it left off. In some episodes, the flashback stops near the middle when the same scene plays.
Top Cat aired on Wednesday nights in Prime Time from 8:30 to 9:00 pm. Hanna-Barbera created 30 half hour episodes of Top Cat. The show was broadcast in black and white but was created in color. The show aired on Saturdays in 1962 and 1963 on ABC, and was then rerun in various Saturday morning slots on NBC from 1965 to 1969, and occasionally in the 1980s.
Reruns of the series aired on Cartoon Network from 1992 until 2004, and on Boomerang from 2000 to 2014 and again from November 26 to November 29, 2020. Reruns later returned to Boomerang on April 4, 2023.
Animation historian Christopher P. Lehman says that the series can be seen as social commentary. The cats may represent disenfranchised people confined to living in a poor environment. Top Cat's get-rich-quick schemes are efforts to escape to a better life. The gang faces a human police officer who frustrates their efforts and keeps them trapped in the alley. This enforcement of the social order by police ensures that the cats will not escape their current living conditions.
Co-creator Bill Hanna said it was one of the wittiest and most sophisticated shows he produced with a rare appeal to audiences of all ages.
Top Cat was conceived along the lines of a traditional, live-action situation comedy, and Hanna-Barbera recruited top sitcom writers of the day to furnish scripts, including Barry Blitzer (a Bilko veteran), Harvey Bullock, and Kin Platt. In the current DVD versions, however, only Platt gets writing credit due to a production error: the closing credits from Platt's episode were used for every episode, so Platt gets screen credit regardless of who wrote the actual scripts.
Main article: List of Top Cat characters
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|1 (4)||"The $1,000,000 Derby"||September 27, 1961|
Benny gets a new pet, a devoted camera-loving nag. Top Cat tries everything to get rid of the horse after it nets the gang a million dollar debt, but changes his mind when he sees the horse's shock-induced superior racing abilities.Note: This episode was first premiered on September 27, 1961, when the show made its debut on ABC, despite making "Hawaii - Here We Come" for the first episode as the error for DVD releases.
|2||"The Maharajah of Pookajee"||October 4, 1961|
|Top Cat impersonates the Maharajah of Pookajee and lives the good life at a swank hotel with his cronies... until a pair of gangsters show up.|
|3||"All That Jazz"||October 11, 1961|
Jazz (Daws Butler impersonating Jack Oakie), the new cat in town (known as "A.T." – All That), takes over the pool hall, steal Top Cat's girlfriend, sways the gang, and cleans up the alley. This sparks a contest between the pair. However, when both Jazz and Top Cat are offered a part in a Hollywood film, they assume that it is another trick. The offer turns out to be legitimate and Benny is cast in the starring role in The Thing from the Alley. He leaves for Hollywood in a limo, accompanied by Top Cat and the gang in the guise of Benny's manager, valet, vocal coach, tailor and chauffeur. After that, Officer Dibble catches Jazz using the police phone, now declaring that Jazz "is just as bad as Top Cat". Jazz and his buddy Beau (Don Messick) are forced by Officer Dibble to keep the alley clean for 30 days.
|4 (1)||"Hawaii - Here We Come"||October 18, 1961|
Benny wins a trip to Hawaii, leading to Top Cat and the gang joining him on his trip by stowing away. Things take a drastic turn as Officer Dibble also ends up aboard the ship, and the discovery of a suitcase containing counterfeit money leads to Top Cat and the gang being thrown into the brig as suspect counterfeiters. However, with Top Cat's assistance, Officer Dibble is able to catch the actual counterfeiter and verify the gang's innocence.Note: Despite making it for the first episode as the error for DVD releases, this was actually considered as the 4th episode of the series.
|5||"The Violin Player"||October 25, 1961|
Mr. Gutenbad (John Stephenson), the musical director of Carnegie Hall, mistakes a recording of violin virtuoso Laszlo Laszlo for the playing of Benny the Ball, who has just taken up the instrument. He approaches Benny with an offer to perform and Top Cat negotiates a deal for $50,000 for a Saturday night performance at the Hall—an offer that is withdrawn when Carnegie's Board of Directors really hear Benny play. When Gutenbad offers a $10,000 reward to find the true violinist, the gang discovers that their neighborhood street cleaner is in fact Laszlo Laszlo (Leo De Lyon).
|6||"The Missing Heir"||November 1, 1961|
Benny is a double for "Catwallader", the missing heir to a millionaire's fortune, the identification being clinched by a supposed birthmark on the sole of Benny's foot. Top Cat and the gang get Benny to the mansion in time to claim the money, but this is bad news to the scheming butler Chutney (Paul Frees) and dog Griswald (Don Messick) who hoped to claim the fortune for themselves. After a fewer failed attempts to kill Benny, Chutney and Griswald are arrested by Officer Dibble, who recognizes Chutney as a wanted criminal. The lawyer appears with the real Catwallader, while Top Cat gets shocked to see that Benny's "birthmark" was chewing gum all along. The next day, Catwallader visits the gang and asks them to join them, just to Top Cat gets disillusioned after discovering that Catwallader gave his whole fortune away.Note: This episode marks the first appearance of Griswald.
|7||"Top Cat Falls in Love"||November 8, 1961|
While visiting tonsillectomy patient Benny in the hospital, Top Cat falls for the pretty cat nurse Miss LaRue (Jean Vander Pyl). T.C. decides to attract her attention by pretending to come down with a rare illness, which will need a lot of nursing care.
|8||"A Visit from Mother"||November 15, 1961|
Benny has written to his mother that he's the Mayor of New York. Now Benny's mother is coming for a visit, and Top Cat and the gang must do everything they can to convince Mrs. Ball (voiced by Bea Benaderet) that her son really is the Mayor.
|9||"Naked Town"||November 22, 1961|
"Naked Town", a TV crime show, will be shooting a warehouse robbery scene in Top Cat's alley. Officer Dibble offers his cooperation, but is unaware that some crooks will be using the TV filming as a cover for a real robbery.
|10||"Sergeant Top Cat"||November 29, 1961|
After overhearing Officer Dibble suggesting ways to improve conditions for the police force, Top Cat passes off Dibble's ideas to the Chief of Police as T.C.'s own. This leads to Top Cat's being made an honorary police sergeant and Dibble's boss in the alley.
|11||"Choo-Choo's Romance"||December 6, 1961|
Choo-Choo has fallen in love with a beautiful French cat named Goldie (Jean Vander Pyl); Top Cat and the gang help Choo-Choo to court her, but they've reckoned without Goldie's jealous boyfriend Pierre (John Stephenson).
|12||"The Unscratchables"||December 13, 1961|
When a stolen diamond ends up in Benny the Ball's stomach, it's up to Top Cat and the gang to find a way to retrieve him from Big Gus and his band of gangsters, who've kidnapped him and are attempting to retrieve the diamond the hard way.
|13||"Rafeefleas"||December 20, 1961|
After Benny spends the night sleeping inside a museum, T.C. discovers a scarab attached to his back. The jewel is later found to be an expensive antique, and the gang attempts to return it. Once the scarab is returned, a jewel thief arrives and takes a number of jewels. Dibble arrives and mistakes T.C. as the thief, however the thief is caught when he runs into the rest of the gang.
|14||"The Tycoon"||December 27, 1961|
A tycoon (voiced by Don Messick) decides to give away $1,000,000 to the most unfortunate person he finds, which ends up being Top Cat. He gives the check to Benny, who tries to show it to Top Cat (who mistakenly believes it's for 25 cents due to his latest hustle), so he tries to cash it himself. A merchant overhears him and tells all his associates. Everybody gives things to Top Cat thinking he is a millionaire and that he'll pay them back.
|15||"The Long Hot Winter"||January 3, 1962|
During the cold winter in the alley, Top Cat and the gang scheme to find a way into Officer Dibble's house in an attempt to keep warm. Once inside the house, Dibble struggles to live with the gang. In the end, the gang stay for several months until spring and the warmer weather arrives.
|16||"The Case of the Absent Anteater"||January 10, 1962|
Benny gets a new pet; a hungry, brown giant anteater which followed him into the alley. Top Cat attempts to get rid of the animal until it is revealed that the anteater has escaped from the zoo and a large reward is on offer for its return.
|17||"T.C. Minds the Baby"||January 17, 1962|
An abandoned baby (Jean Vander Pyl) is found by Top Cat and the gang who intend on looking after it after finding a note from its desperate mother. However, they find parenthood much more difficult than they thought it to be. When Officer Dibble catches onto them, he is shown the note left with the baby and takes it into police custody. In the end, Officer Dibble tells Top Cat's group that the mother is found and the baby is safely returned while seeing that something like this never happens again.
|18||"Farewell, Mr. Dibble"||January 24, 1962|
Officer Dibble is replaced by a new recruit named Ernest Prowler (Don Messick). Prowler intends to be more forceful in his duty than Dibble and intends to stop the trouble that Top Cat and the gang cause. Due to the new regime, the gang hatch a plan to have Dibble return to his old beat in the alley.
|19||"The Grand Tour"||January 31, 1962|
Top Cat and the gang are struggling to make money. However, T.C. comes up with a new get-rich-quick scheme which involves creating a fake "historical" tour of New York. Choo-Choo begins selling "phony" maps. However, it is later found that the maps point to a real treasure in a dilapidated house.
|20||"The Golden Fleecing"||February 7, 1962|
Benny receives an insurance payment of $2,000, giving T.C. ideas about how to spend it. The first spend is made on visiting a local nightclub to visit Honeydew Mellon (voiced by Sallie Jones), a showgirl who Benny falls in love with but also happens to be part of a gang of poker-playing con-artists, who will do everything they can to separate Benny from his money.
|21||"Space Monkey"||February 14, 1962|
Officer Dibble takes a job at Cape Canaveral, and the gang discover about the luxurious treatment a chimpanzee (voiced by John Stephenson) receives while in the space program. The group decides to join up in attempt to access the same luxurious facilities, however wants out when they discover they will be going into space, also that the chimp just wants to see his family again.Note: Herb Vigran played the Space Shuttle Doctor while Walker Edmiston did the voice of his assistant Bernie.
|22||"The Late T.C."||February 21, 1962|
While the gang is watching a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Top Cat ends up being hit by a home run, causing him to fall of the fence. Choo-Choo stays behind while the others take T.C. to the doctor (with Benny making, according to T.C., the "worst siren [noise] I've ever heard!"). Officer Dibble comes along and asks Choo-Choo what has happened, and he is told that T.C. has been taken to the doctor. Dibble decides to follow T.C. to make sure he doesn't rip the doctor off (believing that he is trying to con the physician into buying the Brooklyn Bridge, which Choo-Choo didn't even know was for sale). T.C. is checked and diagnosed with only a bump on the head, but when it comes to paying the doctor's fee, he offers his pocket clock, which was broken when he fell off the fence. Doctor tells him "Your ticker will only last a week.". Dibble, overhearing, mistakes the "ticker" for Top Cat's heart and thinks he will soon "conk out". After realising the misunderstanding, T.C. takes advantage of the situation and Dibble helps him - that is, until Dibble decides to invite the doctor to T.C.'s going away party and finds out!
|23||"Dibble's Birthday"||February 28, 1962|
Officer Dibble's birthday is coming up and he begins to feel he is getting too old. To help cheer him up, the gang decide to throw him a birthday party, with gifts from everybody in the neighborhood.
|24||"Choo-Choo Goes Ga-Ga"||March 7, 1962|
Choo-Choo threatens to commit suicide unless he can get a date with a Hollywood movie star named Lola Glamour (Jean Vander Pyl). Top Cat tries getting him that date by visiting her at her penthouse, but Officer Dibble is given complaints from other people who live there. Top Cat eventually escapes from Officer Dibble, but soon finds out Lola would only date rich men, so Choo Choo once again tries to commit suicide. This annoys Top Cat, so he tries to get Lola to think Choo Choo is a rich count named Count Chooch.
|25||"King for a Day"||March 14, 1962|
After Top Cat upsets Officer Dibble one time too many, he and the gang decide to lie low for a while. After spending the night in a department store, the gang go on the "King for a Day" show which offers a number of prizes, after writing to the show's producers about the gang being a "poor family". Instead, Dibble wins the prizes and offers to take T.C. and the gang for a ride to show no hard feelings.
|26||"The Con Men"||March 21, 1962|
A friendly hot dog vendor (Paul Frees) is swindled out of $1,000 by con men who pretended to have an oil well in Nova Scotia. Top Cat disguises himself as a wealthy Texan in an attempt to get the money back, by convincing the crooks that the oil well really does exist.
|27||"Dibble Breaks the Record"||March 28, 1962|
Dibble attempts to break a record as the longest serving police officer on the beat, which had been set years ago by his idol, policeman "Iron Man" Muldoon; if he beats the record, he wins a holiday which allows him to escape the gang for a while. With this information, Top Cat does everything he can to help Dibble win and have the gang watch over him so he doesn't have an accident.
|28||"Dibble Sings Again"||April 4, 1962|
|Top Cat owes money to loan shark Big Gus. After hearing Officer Dibble singing, he convinces him that under his management, he could become a big singing star.|
|29||"Griswald"||April 11, 1962|
Dibble gets a new partner on the beat: the dog Griswald. Top Cat and the gang attempt to outwit him, but the dog always seems to be one step ahead. T.C. manages to get the dog removed from duty after he bites the police sergeant and the police commissioner (Don Messick).Note: This is the second appearance of Griswald who is now under new ownership.
|30||"Dibble's Double"||April 18, 1962|
A thief named Al the Actor (Don Messick) disguises as Officer Dibble to steal a fortune from an art gallery. After seeing how much can be paid for artworks, Top Cat has also taken up painting, but discovers his own artwork was also stolen. The gang, together with Dibble, team up to catch the thief.
Episodes of the series were released on VHS in Europe, as well as Worldvision Home Video in the United States.
The series' episode, "All That Jazz", was edited into a 7-minute preview as part of the "A Sample of Boomerang" tape, from Cartoon Network's sister channel, Boomerang.
Episodes of the series were also released on Laserdisc in the United Kingdom by Guild Home Video, as well as Image Entertainment in the United States.
Warner Home Video released Top Cat: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 on December 7, 2004, as part of their Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection. This set was re-released by Warner Archive on January 10, 2017, albeit as a manufacture-on-demand (MOD) release. On June 6 of that year, Top Cat was re-released in stores again as part of the Hanna-Barbera Diamond Collection in honor of Hanna-Barbera's 60th anniversary; however, all bonus features were removed.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Additional Information|
|Top Cat – The Complete Series||30||
In the UK, the complete series box set was released in 2007, initially as a HMV exclusive until 2008. Alternatively, five single DVD volumes, each containing 6 episodes, were released. The covers were originally from the US edition but later re-released with a new design. Each volume shows a group picture of Top Cat using Dibble's phone with his gang beside him, but the colour-coding is:
The DVDs have since been made available to buy in other retailers across the UK.
The gang's adventures continued off-screen in comic books as Dell (which became Gold Key) published 31 issues from 1961 to 1970. Charlton Comics published 20 more issues from 1970 to 1973. In Mexico, Ediciones Latinoamericanas' "La Colección Primavera" featured Don Gato in 1968.
In 2012, there was a crossover between Top Cat and Chilean comic book character Condorito.
Top Cat had a backup story in Adam Strange/Future Quest Annual #1 in where he escapes from prison and meets Batman through a cosmic portal. Unlike the cartoon, Top Cat is from a world where cats are the dominant species. As a follow-up, Top Cat also appears in one issue of a crossover series between DC and Hanna-Barbera, titled Superman/Top Cat Special (October 2018).
Little Golden Books and Durabooks have both produced hardcover children's books starring Top Cat. In the UK, World Distributors published annuals during the 1960s sourced from the Dell comics strips. BrownWatson later published a 1978 annual entitled The Great Grape Ape and Boss Cat.
T.C. and friends appeared on three View-Master reels in 1962. These were titled "Medal for Meddling", "Zoo-Operation", and "No Cat Fishing".
The Original TV Soundtrack, written and recorded by Hoyt Curtin, was released by Colpix Records in 1962, consisting of slightly edited versions of "The Unscratchables" and "Top Cat Falls in Love". Hanna-Barbera Records released an LP in 1965 titled Robin Hood Starring Top Cat. T.C. and the gang were pictured as Merry Men on the cover. Its songs included "Top Cat", "M-O-N-E-Y", "Dibble", "Robin Hood", and "Buddies". It was re-released in 1977 on Columbia Records' Special Products label. A jazzy arrangement of the Top Cat theme can be heard most weeks over the end credits of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.
The titles and underscore were released as part of the CD release, The Best of Hanna-Barbera: Tunes from the Toons by Music Club in 2002 in Europe.
Other Hanna-Barbera characters make cameo appearances during the series.
The series has spawned two theatrical films produced by Mexican animation studio, Ánima Estudios. Both films have grossed a combined total of $19.3 million (MX$166.35 million pesos).
|Title||Year||Box-office (USD)||Box-office (MXN)|
|Top Cat: The Movie||2011||$14.7 million||$112.25 million|
|Top Cat Begins||2015||$4.6 million||$54.1 million|
|Combined total||$19.3 million||$166.35 million|
The show premiered on the National Television Network (now known as the Nine Network) on October 5, 1962, and ran on the Nine Network until 1971.
Top Cat premiered on the CTV Television Network on October 9, 1961.
Top Cat (Turpi úrfi) was one of the first American cartoons premiered on Hungarian television channels in 1969. It also broadcast later with The Huckleberry Hound Show, Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones and The Jetsons on Magyar Televízió from 1985 to 1990, and tv2 from 1997 to 1999 (together with Wacky Races, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo). Boomerang began broadcasting it in Hungarian in 2012.
The show was dubbed to Spanish in Mexico in 1963, using some of the same voice actors who worked in The Flintstones. It was renamed Don Gato y su pandilla (literally Mr. Cat and his gang) and the main characters adopted different accents. The voice acting improved the show, adding new jokes and local references.
In spite of the modest success of the show in the United States, the show was a massive hit in Mexico, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina, where it is recognized as one of the most famous Hanna Barbera characters ever, being as popular as The Flintstones.
Besides Top Cat, all the other characters from the show were famous, and their popularity is commonly attributed by the excellent dubbing and voice acting:
The adaptation and translation was made by Rubén Arvizu. The main voice actors were Julio Lucena (voice of Top Cat), Jorge Arvizu (voice of Benny and Choo Choo), Víctor Alcocer (voice of Dibble), and David Reynoso, among others. Top Cat is still rerun every few years.
In Brazil, the character is known as Manda-Chuva (Brazilian Portuguese for big shot) and was voiced by actor Lima Duarte. In addition, the city of New York was replaced by Brasília (federal capital) in the Brazilian version.
Top Cat was one of the early favorites on Cartoon Network. It was aired in India in the 1990s. Top Cat was aired again in 2003 until 2004.
Top Cat (Japanese: ドラ猫大将) first aired on TV Asahi back in 1963 under the title translating to Stray Cat Boss. It was then rebroadcast many times over the years. In 1990, A new dub was produced for VHS sold by Columbia Records and released under its original name in Katakana (トップキャット). This new dub was also carried over to airing on Cartoon Network Japan since its launch in 1997.
Top Cat (Sinhala: Pissu Poosa (පිස්සු පූසා) literally Crazy Cat) was one of the most popular cartoon shows in Sri Lanka early 1980s and it has been repeated several times on the national television channel "Rupavahini". The series is dubbed in Sinhala and directed by Titus Thotawatte.
"Top Cat" premiered on the BBC Television Service (now BBC One) on May 16, 1962, under its original name but after only four weeks was renamed The Boss Cat on June 13, 1962. This was shortened on 22 February 1967 to Boss Cat. This rapid name change was made because Top Cat was also the name of a then-popular British brand of cat food, and the cartoon was aired on the BBC which does not carry advertising. The dialogue and theme tune still referred to the character by his original name, but a small cut was made at the climax of the opening credits (resulting in a slight jump in the film) and a title card carrying the revised title inserted before the episode proper. Similarly, the Top Cat name was edited from the final section of the show's closing credits, causing another slight jump (as Top Cat is putting on his eyeshades and readying himself for sleep in his trash can). The BBC run comprised only 26 of the original 30 episodes, with notable omissions including Choo-Choo Goes Ga-Ga, with its repeated scenes of Choo-Choo attempting suicide. This 26-episode selection was repeated on the BBC from 1962 to 1989.
Despite the show being renamed Boss Cat, the character's name was unchanged as Top Cat or the initials "TC". The Boss Cat title card was last used for a repeat run in 1989; by the time the series was next aired, in 1999, the Top Cat pet food brand had been discontinued in the United Kingdom, allowing the original US title sequence to be used. This continues to be the case in contemporary showings on satellite station Boomerang and BBC Two.
In 2016, the characters from the show (all the cats and Officer Dibble) were used as part of a set of television commercials for the British bank Halifax.