Super Chicken: Pittsburgh's Animated Superhero

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He will drink his super sauce

And throw the bad guys for a loss

And he will bring them in alive and kickin' (buk, buk, buk)

There is one thing you should learn

When there is no one else to turn to

Call for Super Chicken! (buk, buk, buk)

Call for Super Chicken! (buk, awk!)


–  Super Chicken Theme Song

The Super Sauce is served in a glass of some sort1 by faithful companion Fred the Lion whenever millionaire chicken Henry Cabot Henhouse III jumps in his Super Coop and flies away from his penthouse apartment2 to do battle with evil. Gotham City may have Batman, but Pittsburgh has Super Chicken. This is thanks to Jay Ward and Bill Scott, the endlessly inventive minds behind Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Dooright, and Tom Slick.

Like all of the Ward/Scott collaborations, Super Chicken satirised genre expectations and modern stereotypes. It also featured, no surprise, the vocal talents of Paul Frees, here doing his Ed Wynn imitations as Fred. Animator/cowriter Bill Scott (otherwise known for 'Bullwinkle the Moose') played the masked superfowl himself, also his alter ego Henry Cabot Henhouse III3. Voice actor Daws (Yogi Bear) Butler4 played all of the supervillains with an astounding variety of accents and impressions. Three voice actors and the loopy animation of Ward/Scott productions doesn't sound like much, but it added up to a lot of laughs for children and adults alike in 1967.

The Villains

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

Super Chicken was part of the George of the Jungle ('Watch out for that tree!') Saturday lineup along with Tom Slick (driver of the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper and its incarnations as airplane, racing balloon, and even skateboard). Each of the episodes is about six minutes long, which is about as much as anybody can stand of this sort of thing, even kids. After all, narration like this...

Tension filled the air like peanut brittle.

...can only go on for so long. There are 18 episodes, if you count the pilot. Here is a brief rundown of villains and a few spoilers.

  1. Pilot. The pilot is experimental. Super Chicken's alter ego is given as 'Hunt Strongbird', and he has a quite different (and annoying) accent and is rather conceited. He does manage to foil the villain, a rogue chicken farmer by the name of Eggs Benedict. There are more chickens (and dogs) in this episode, and fewer cartoon humans. Pittsburgh is never mentioned. Obviously rewrites were needed. Things got better immediately.

  2. The Zipper. The villain is the fastest human in the world. He is annoyed at finding himself on television. He has a very big bomb.

  3. One of Our States Is Missing. Villain Appian Way steals Rhode Island. Miraculously, someone misses it.

  4. Wild Ralph Hiccup. A Wild West-style holdup man who sounds a lot like John Wayne holds up airplanes, then jumps out to land on his waiting horse. At least, that is his plan. The horse tends to sidestep. This caper requires Super Chicken and Fred to buy a lot of round-trip plane tickets to Miami5.

  5. The Oyster. The world's largest pearl is stolen. Guess what the villain's name is? The dastardly criminal disguises himself as the pearl's mother.

  6. The Easter Bunny. Criminal mastermind Louis Lapin disguises himself as the beloved spring icon in order to rob Pittsburgh's banks and dye all the US money any colour but green.

  7. The Elephant Spreader. The villain is Prince Blackhole of Calcutta. He wants it to snow in India, so he's tipping the planet with strategically placed elephants. It goes downhill from there.

  8. The Geezer. The Geezer has stolen a geyser. Don't ask how or why.

  9. Rotten Hood. Rotten Hood and Fried Tucker are tired of stealing peanuts from the squirrels in Sherwood Park. They decide to rob from the rich...and keep it. This looks like a job for Super Chicken.

  10. The Laundry Man. This is either politically incorrect or a brilliant subversion of a stereotype (the villain is pretty witty), take your pick. Shrimp Chop Phooey is laundering money. Rather literally. [SPOILER ALERT] Super Chicken returns the stolen laundered money to its rightful owners: the crooks who brought it in for laundering. (We never said this show was edifying.)

  11. The Noodle. The Noodle has elaborate plans. Super Chicken has amnesia. Fred has an idea.

  12. The Fat Man. We can see this one coming when we realise that the Maltese Duck has been stolen.

  13. Merlin Brando. Merlin Brando lives, not on the Isle of Wight, but on the Isle of Lucy6. When his magic mirror sees Super Chicken on television, Merlin is jealous and vows to eliminate his rival.

  14. Salvador Rag Dolly. Yes, of course: evil talking dolls that commit robberies. And yes, the villain has that moustache. That doll's voice sounds awfully familiar. Can it be? Yes, it is June Foray, the lady who made all the dolls talk in the 1960s, including Rod Serling's.

  15. Briggs Bad Wolf. A terrible actor, Briggs Bad Wolf now thinks he's a real villain and has kidnapped actress Red Ridinghood. Will Super Chicken stop him before she gets concussion from being used (repeatedly) as a blunt instrument by the demented thespian?

  16. The Muscle. The world's strongest criminal has stolen a diamond-studded dumbbell. Why not? Getting whacked by The Muscle is painful, but 'you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.'

  17. Dr Gizmo. The mad scientist has more gadgets in his hat than Inspector Gadget. Super Chicken is up to the task.

  18. The Wild Hair. A living toupee runs amok, high on stolen hair tonic. It is a fittingly hair-raising end to the series.

How Is This Stuff Relevant to the 21st Century?

Possibly not at all. However, the cartoons are good for a laugh. The dialogue is witty. It's SFW7. It's safe for kids. You can learn a lot about mid-20th-century cultural baggage from it. Best of all, it's all available free on Youtube. Just search by Super Chicken + the name of the episode on the list. This entry has been a public service of the Edited Guide Earth Edition.

1Except when it turned into soup.2Pittsburgh audiences assumed that Super Chicken lived in the Gulf Building, at that time the tallest building in the city. If so, he and Fred might have appreciated the colour-coded neon pyramid at the top which reflected local weather conditions.3Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr, was a Republican Senator from Massachusetts when Super Chicken first aired. Bill Scott was imitating the accent of a 'Boston Brahmin', or upper-class intellectual from New England. Naming sons in succession, with numbers after their names, is considered a fairly snobbish practice in some US quarters, though the nickname 'Trip' (for someone who is the third to have the name) indicates that it is common in other circles. There have now been four Henry Cabot Lodges.4Daws Butler was the only voice actor in the US to receive an onscreen credit in an animated television commercial – for his performance as the lion Snagglepuss in spots for Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies (a breakfast cereal). This was necessary because the voice was a note-perfect imitation of Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Lahr had threatened to sue.5This episode may have been inspired by a number of airplane hijackings in the US in the early 1960s, in which the hijackers insisted on being flown to Cuba rather than Miami. Passenger jokes about hoping the plane landed in Florida rather than Cuba were common during this decade and, perhaps surprisingly, never led to arrests by panicked security officers.6Say it aloud. Still haven't got it? You aren't an American in 1967, who would recognise the name of the popular television show.7=Safe For Work. Unless you tend to laugh too loudly.

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