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Johnny Coons ...
 King Calico (voice)
Doris Larson ...
 Doris
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1951 (USA)  »

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Vaguely Familiar, Yet Uncredited As Ancestoral Format For Others To Follow.
18 June 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

WE'VE TALKED ABOUT this short lived little kiddie puppet show for years and finally, we see it listed in the IMDb.com files. Different fellow members of the Baby Boomer generation couldn't validate my recollections. They remembered RUDY KAZOOTIE, PATTY PELICAN and THE SMALL FRY CLUB, but no KING CALICO. Some even thought us to be delusional!

NOW, WELL INTO the 21st Century, not only has this series been acknowledged to having existed; but, we have now had the experience of viewing one episode. Thanks to modern technology, a certain secret website has it online! (Clever, these Americans!)

THE ONE THING that we do remember (and recognized as a 5 year old) is that the main title character's voice was provided by one Johnny Coons. Well known as the M.C. of various incarnations of THE UNCLE JOHNNY COONS SHOW, the round, owl-faced actor had won some local Chicago Emmys and (we think) even was considered or won a Peabody Award (no Schultz, not that MR. PEABODY!)

AS FAR AS this puppet fantasy, it was pretty standard stuff; even for A.D. 1951. It opens with a very pleasant, mommy-type Lady; who served as our M.C. and guide to the puppet world and stories. The various hand puppets (no Marionettes) were those styled as various animals. Familiar to the young ones, the "players" are supposed to be Donkeys, Alligators, Bunnies,etc. The only human character we observed was King Calico, himself.

UPON VIEWING THIS show, after an over a six decade hiatus, we did find it to be a not so vaguely crafted reminder of that puppet business that Fred Rogers did in "the Neighborhood of Make Believe" on MISTER ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD. Inasmuch as this predated the Rogers PBS show by some years, it may well have served as a model for the latter show.

OTHER THAN THAT, that is where the similarities end; for while Fred Rogers got accolades and bouquets, fate was far different for 'Uncle Johnny' Coons. At the end of one of his daily lunchtime broadcasts, he became an early victim of the open microphone.

WHILE SIGNING OFF he jokingly added what he thought was to be an inside joke for the studio crew. Following the obligatory "Good Bye Boys and Girls......etc." he added: "There, that ought to hold the little (illegitimates) for another day!" He was gone the next day.*

NOTE: * When one door closes, another opens; as Johnny Coons went to the Wset Coast; where he acted in TV & films, did commercials and voiced various characters for MR. MAGOO'S home studio, United Productions of America or JUPA for short.


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