Some time in the late 1940s two young men named Alexander Anderson and Jay Ward imagined what was to become the first animated cartoon created specifically for television. Crusader Rabbit, starring the eponymous rabbit and his somewhat thick-headed companion, Ragland T. (Rags) Tiger, appeared in a series of 10 stories called “Crusades”, each told in a number of 4-minute chapters. These were initially broadcast between 1950 and 1957. This was a syndicated program, dependent on local stations’ programming choices and not seen everywhere. I don’t remember now with certainty which local channel played it, thus making it available to viewers in rural northern Illinois; it might have been WREX, channel 13 in Rockford, Illinois, the home of Rollie Sponberg’s afternoon children’s show, but it was never among the cartoons he ran.
Jay Ward went on to create a much more famous television cartoon featuring a flying squirrel, Rocket J. (Rocky) Squirrel, and his rather thick-headed companion, Bullwinkle J. Moose. Those who remember only Rocky and His Friends or The Bullwinkle Show should recognize similarities among the characters of these programs, as well as the abundance of puns and irreverent commentary.
When I was in elementary school in the 1950s Crusader Rabbit aired some time after school let out, and I would run home each day to watch that day’s episode, sprawled on the floor in front of our, or my friend Dave’s, television. The program was undoubtedly inserted among the advertisements between more important programs, but Crusader Rabbit was what I wanted to see, and we probably ran outside once it was over. I have no memory at all of the programs that surrounded it.
The first Crusader Rabbit “Crusade” was titled “Crusader vs the State of Texas”, and was told in 15 4-minute chapters. Someone has been kind enough to post these on YouTube, and I am going to point at them, one a day, over the next couple of weeks. I don’t know if anyone else will look at them, but I’ll be entertained.
(Click here for Chapter 2)