The animation studio UPA (United Productions of America) began producing Dick Tracy cartoons in 1961, starting with the Dick Tracy Show. Overshadowed by larger animation studio’s the Dick Tracy Show did not run long but Dick Tracy was kept alive in animation with a spot on the Mr. Magoo show in 1965. In 1971, Filmation added Dick Tracy cartoons to Archie’s T.V. Funnies, which was the last time Dick Tracy was seen in animation.
The first Dick Tracy cartoon series was produced from 1960 to 1961 by UPA. In the series Tracy employed a team of cartoon-like subordinate flatfoots to fight crime each week, contacting them on his two-way wrist radio. Everett Sloane voiced Tracy and supporting characters and villains were voiced by Jerry Hausner, Mel Blanc, Benny Rubin, Johnny Coons and Paul Frees. These subordinates included “Go-Go” Gomez, Joe Jitsu, Hemlock Holmes and Heap O’Calorie. 130 five-minute cartoons were designed and packaged for syndication targeted at children.
“Dick Tracy and the Mob”
Since UPA was also the production company behind the Mr. Magoo cartoons, it was possible for them to arrange a meeting between Tracy and Magoo in a 1965 episode of the season-long TV series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. In that episode, “Dick Tracy and the Mob,” Tracy persuades Magoo (a well-known actor in the context of the Famous Adventures series) to impersonate an international hit man whom he resembles, and infiltrate a gang of criminals made up of Flattop, Pruneface, Itchy, Mumbles and others. Unlike the earlier animated Tracy shorts, this longer episode was played relatively straight, with Tracy getting much more screen time. Pitting Tracy against a coalition of several of his foes would be adopted more than two decades later in the 1990 film mentioned below.
A second cartoon series, produced in 1971, was a feature in Archie’s TV Funnies which ran short animations for a number of comic strips. Produced by Filmation, which adhered more closely to the comic strip, the Dick Tracy funnies were hampered by cruder animation, typical of the studio’s production standards.