One thing that was really cool about the 70’s was the fact that there were Black cartoons on TV. I love cartoons and every Saturday morning you would find me right in front of the tube watching Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids, The Go Go Globetrotters and my favorite, The Jackson 5ive.
Years later I would meet someone who hipped me to collecting the original animation cels that were actually used under the camera to create these cartoons. As cartoons today are computer generated, hand drawn and painted animation cels are rare and represent a lost art form. I now have a very funky collection of original and limited edition Black animation art from all of my favorite cartoons.
The Jackson 5ive Cartoon Facts
The Jackson 5ive cartoon was the second positive Black cast cartoon to appear on Saturday Morning and Motown Productions’ first television series. Motown executives had to “approve every aspect of the series” and they rejected a number of writers’ scripts before things met their approval.
The Jackson 5ive cartoon was also the first positive cartoon that featured Black musicians. Prior to this, animators regularly used jazz musicians Cab Calloway, Thomas “Fats” Waller, Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson as archetypes for a host of animals and people in animated features. Many of these caricatures reinforced stereotypes about Blacks’ natural ability to dance and sing and their supposed animalistic nature.
Between 1932 and 1955 twenty different film shorts featured a caricature of or reference to Cab Calloway. Racist and racialized caricatures of other Black entertainers appeared in at least a dozen films including: six with Fats Waller, six with Bill Robinson, seven with Louis Armstrong and two with Ethel Waters.
The Jackson 5ive premiered on ABC on September 11, 1971 and ran through September 13, 1973. The series was produced by Rankin / Bass and was animated mainly in London at the studios of Halas and Batchelor. Some of the animation was done at Estudios Moro, Barcelona Spain. The director was Spanish American Robert Balser.
The show featured all five Jackson brothers: Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie. Other than appearing in the introduction, the actual Jackson brothers themselves were unable to contribute to the show in any way due to scheduling conflicts. Only their music was used. During the music montages, a clipping of the Jackson 5 appearing in concert would air occasionally to blend in with the cartoon.
The Jackson Five did not lend their voices to the cartoon. They were voiced by: Donald Fullilove (Michael), Edmund Sylvers (Marlon), Joel Cooper (Jermaine), Mike Martinez (Tito) and Craig Grandy (Jackie). While Diana Ross added her voice in the debut episode, Barry Gordy’s character was voiced by actor Paul Frees.
Like most animated comedies of the time, The Jackson 5ive contained a laugh track. However, the chuckles were not edited onto the soundtrack smoothly. More than likely, Rankin / Bass did the editing themselves as a cost-saving measure (a la Hanna-Barbera), recycling about 10 to 12 different guffaws. It was less expensive to add the laughs themselves instead of hiring Charley Douglass’s company, who added the giggles to all the major network shows. Interestingly, Rankin / Bass “limited” chuckles were actually culled from the same tapes Douglass used.
The Jackson 5ive featured the band in a series of comic misadventures, usually sandwiched around two songs per show. Young Michael was usually the focus, along with his pets mice Ray and Charles, and snake Rosie. A specially recorded medley of the groups three #1 hits – “I Want You Back”, “The Love You Save”, and “ABC” – served as the show’s theme song.
There were 17 episodes that aired in 1971. In the second year, 6 original episodes aired and the rest of the season consisted of reruns.
- It All Started With…
- Pinestock U.S.A.
- Mistaken Identity
- Bongo, Baby, Bongo
- The Winner’s Circle
- The Wizard of Soul
- The Tiny Five
- The Groovatron
- Ray and Charles: Superstars
- Farmer Jacksons
- Jackson Island
- The Michael Look
- Jackson Street, U.S.A.
- A Rare Pearl
- Who’s Hoozis?
- Michael White
- Groove To The Chief
- Michael In Wonderland
- Jackson and The Beanstalk
- The Opening Act
Jackson 5ive animation cels are extremely rare and can be expensive. There are no limited productions cels or serigraphs for this cartoon.
The Original Production Pan Cel and the Original Production Cels and Drawings of the Jackson 5ive and Berry Gordy featured on this page are from the Black Animation Collection of The Museum of UnCut Funk.
The Jackson 5ive © 2013 Classic Media Inc.