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Top Cat

The famous American animated television series, Top Cat, began in 1961 on the ABC network. Chronicling the comic adventures of a group of alley cats, their leader Top Cat (or TC to his friends) was a streetwise wily feline who always managed to outwit his nemesis, Officer Charlie Dibble, at every turn.

The series had its roots in a movie franchise from the 1940s, East Side Kids. The cats' personalities were based on their human counterparts - a gang of streetwise youths in a series of B-movies released by Monogram Pictures from 1940 to 1945.

Top Cat creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, wrote the animated comedy about a group of cats who assumed human personality traits and lived by their wits in a giant trash can in a Manhattan alley.

Top Cat's own personality had its roots in the 1950s Emmy Award-winning American sitcom, The Phil Silvers Show. The character of Top Cat was based on the lead character, Sergeant Bilko, who was a crafty, devious soldier played by Silvers. He always had plenty of money-making schemes up his sleeve, usually causing mayhem.

Top cat characters

The actor who provided the voice for Top Cat, Arnold Stang, was told to base it on Silvers' voice as Sergeant Bilko. Stang had been a radio star in his youth, with roles on children's programmes on New York-based shows. Voicing Top Cat was the role for which he was most famous.

Top Cat also had another link to The Phil Silvers Show: actor Maurice Gosfield, who played Private Duane Doberman, went on to provide the voice for one of Top Cat's gang, Benny the Ball. The other lead characters included Top Cat's cohort, Choo-Choo (who was nicknamed Chooch) who lived at the fire station and was a good poker player.

Choo-Choo's voice was provided by established actor Marvin Kaplan, who was also known for his roles in Hollywood films such as the 1949 movie, Adam's Rib, (which starred Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) and the comedy, The Great Race, in 1965.

Office dibbles and top cat

Much of the humour was provided by the cats' continual run-ins with the long-suffering Officer Dibble of the New York Police Department.

Each episode started with the famous Top Cat theme song and was a self-contained story. In the first episode broadcast on 27th September 1961, Benny wins a trip to Hawaii on a cruise ship, so Top Cat and the rest of the gang stow away onboard.

However, when a suitcase of counterfeit cash is unearthed, it isn't long before Officer Dibble is enlisted to investigate. Benny, Top Cat and the gang are the chief suspects, but have the police got it wrong when they throw them into jail?

In a later episode called Naked Town, a TV crew are in the area to film a robbery scene for a fictional drama series. Little does Officer Dibble know that some local criminals are planning to use the filming as the front for a real-life robbery.

Although Top Cat ran for only 30 half-hour episodes, ending its run on 18th April 1962, repeats have been broadcast on various channels to this day, with Warner Bros Television Distribution having held the rights since 1996. It is popular all over the world, including the United States, the UK, Canada, Hungary, Sri Lanka and India. The most recent reruns in the UK were on BBC2, when Top Cat delighted a whole new generation of kids.

Three Top Cat films have also been made: Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats in 1988, Top Cat: The Movie in 2011 and Top Cat Begins in 2016. The latter was a prequel to the series and related how Top Cat and the gang first met. The three films grossed a combined total of $21.1 million at the box office.

Top Cat is so much a part of popular culture that in 2016, Top Cat, his gang and Officer Dibble were used in a TV advertising campaign for a UK bank. In addition, the series has been analysed by historian Christopher Lehman, who describes it as a "social commentary".

He believes the cats represent people living in poverty and dreaming up get-rich-quick schemes to escape to a better life. Officer Dibble represents the police's enforcement of social order, ensuring Top Cat and the gang will never escape their impoverished living conditions.

The word "dibble" became a derogatory slang term for the police in Manchester in the late 1980s, based directly on the policeman in Top Cat. If anyone said, "The dibble are coming," it meant the police were on their way.

Although Top Cat and the gang lived in a dustbin, a far better environment for stray cats is a cattery! Coruba provides the highest-quality animal rubber matting products - for catteries, kennels, stables and other animal habitats. Please contact us for further information.


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