Josie and the Pussy Cats

Suspended Animation #407

The 1970-1971 Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning sixteen episode television series Josie and the Pussycats that aired on CBS about an all-girl pop music band was the result of the success of Filmation’s The Archie Show and Action for Children’s Television wanting less violent cartoons on Saturday morning.

Josie and the Pussy Cats featured an all-girl teenage pop music band that toured the world with their entourage visiting exotic locations and getting mixed up in strange adventures, spy capers and mysteries. The final chase scene would have one of the Pussycats’ songs as the background music.

The group consisted of red-headed lead singer/guitarist Josie (Janet Waldo), intelligent bassist Valerie (Barbara Pariot) and air-headed blond drummer Melody (Jackie Joseph). Other characters included their shady manager, Alexander Cabot III; his conniving sister, Alexandra; her cat, Sebastian and roadie Alan Mayberry.

The Josie characters came from an Archie comic book created and drawn by artist Dan DeCarlo. In 1956, DeCarlo was developing several ideas for possible newspaper comic strips. His wife Josie, a former French born model, came home with a brand-new bouffant hairdo complete with a little black ribbon and DeCarlo decided to use her as a basis for a strip called Here’s Josie.

DeCarlo put together samples for a newspaper strip called Here’s Josie with the character but it didn’t sell to a syndicate so he offered it to Richard Goldwater who took it to his father who was publishing Archie comics. She was originally called Josie Jones (or sometimes Josie James) but is now officially known as Josie McCoy. The comic book series started in 1963.

When it came time for the character to be a member of a rock’n’roll band, DeCarlo once again used his wife for inspiration. As she recalled, “We went on a Caribbean cruise, and I had a [cat] costume a girlfriend had made for me for carnival night on the cruise, and that’s the way it started.” She originally had a mask but Dan felt it obscured her face too much and changed it to just the ears.

On the television series, even though DeCarlo is given a “created by” credit (along with Richard Goldwater, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears), he never received any additional payments or royalties.

When the comic book was optioned by Hanna-Barbera, the Archie company dropped Dan DeCarlo’s credit in the Josie comic books and used just “Dick and Dan” instead. Dick referred to Richard “Dick” Goldwater.

Hanna-Barbera wanted to change Valerie to a Caucasian even though she was already established as African-American in the Archie comics, so they wanted to fire African-American Patrice Holloway who had been cast as Valerie’s singing voice.

But Danny Janssen who was producing the real-life group’s Capitol album, refused to fire Holloway and Hanna-Barbera relented after three weeks. A full album and two 45-RPM singles were released by Capitol/EMI Records in connection with the show as well as four Kelloggs cereal premiums 45s.

It was the first Saturday morning animated series to feature a regularly featured female black character. Holloway was the sister of Motown singer Brenda Holloway. Patrice sings the lead on the theme song. She was the only member of the cast to appear as an actual member of the live group and on the album cover.

The singing voice of Melody was done by Cheryl Ladd (credited as Cherie Moor) and it was her first television project. Cathy Dougher did the singing voice for Josie. The original plans were to feature a short live action segment at the end of every show with the live band.

The show’s theme song, titled “Josie and the Pussycats”, was written by Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna (under the pseudonym “Denby Williams”) and Joseph Barbera (under the pseudonym “Joseph Roland”). The song proclaimed: “We’re involved with this and that, everywhere the action’s at.” Check out Greg Ehrbar’s always outstanding column about the Pussycats on records.

Because Filmation owned the rights to the Archie characters, the Pussycats series had to be divorced from that Archie universe and its characters and locations.

“Dan DeCarlo, a freelancer, was kept unaware that Josie and the Pussycats had been sold to CBS until he was invited to have lunch with Archie Comics’ owners on a Friday, the day before the show’s premiere,” stated animator, writer and cartoonist Scott Shaw!

“He eagerly complied, since his bosses implied that they had good news for him. Before lunch, Dan was plied with cocktails until he was quite inebriated, then was told of his creation’s animated incarnation. Dan was aghast that he wasn’t informed about the deal and even angrier that he wasn’t receiving a cent from it, but was too drunk to respond appropriately.

“Years later, when he tried to sue for a portion of the profits of a live-action Josie and the Pussycats movie, the 80-year-old cartoonist (but still churning out artwork for Archie featuring the characters) was blacklisted by the wonderful folks at Archie Comics.

“Photos exist of Josie DeCarlo and her cartoonist husband at a shipboard costume party; Dan is dressed as a big game hunter while Josie is wearing a leopard costume, complete with those trademark ‘pussycat’ ears.”

Writer and artist Norman Maurer, who was story editor at Hanna-Barbera told me he had once written a scene for Josie and the Pussycats where Sebastian the cat escaped from some sort of menace and hides in a dish of spaghetti. CBS disallowed it. “Kids’ll put their cats in spaghetti” Maurer was told.

Fred Silverman was vice president of CBS and loved the show. According to legend when he was once listening to a promotional tape for the show that included dialog, he abruptly stopped the tape and said, “Josie wouldn’t say that!” so the offending line was not only removed from the promo but re-recorded for the episode itself.

In 1972, the show’s characters and concept was transformed into Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, sixteen episodes of which aired on CBS Saturday morning during the 1972–73 season. While taking a promotional photo at the launch site of a new spaceship, Alexandra pushes everyone aside and they accidentally end up in the spaceship and trigger the launch cycle.

In the sixteen episodes they explored strange new worlds, often captured by aliens, while trying to find their way back to Earth. Melody adopts a cute little alien named Bleep voiced by Don Messick.

Melody, Alexander, Alexandra, and Sebastian were originally intended to appear in the animated series Scooby’s Laff-A-Lympics (1977) as members of the Scooby Doobies team as shown in an early promotional art for that show.

But licensing difficulties with Archie Comics prevented Hanna-Barbera from using them, so instead Cavey, Dee Dee, Brenda and Taffy from Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977) were used instead.

In 2001, DIC Entertainment and Riverdale Productions announced an agreement to co-produce, distribute and merchandise a new animated television series based on the Josie and the Pussycats comic book. Supposedly it was going to be influenced by the upcoming live action film featuring the characters. The film flopped and I suppose that put the kibosh on the proposed animated series.