Crusader Rabbit was the first animated series produced specifically for television. The concept was test marketed in 1948, while the initial episode - Crusader vs. the State of Texas - aired on KNBH in Los Angeles, California on August 1, 1950.
The concept of an animated series made for television came from animator Alex Anderson, who worked for Terrytoons Studios. Terrytoons preferred to remain in film animation, so Anderson approached Jay Ward for financing. Ward became business manager and producer, joining with Anderson to form "Television Arts Productions" in 1948. They tried to sell the series (initially presented as part of a proposed series, The Comic Strips of Television, which also featured an early incarnation of Dudley Do-Right) to the NBC television network, which assigned Jerry Fairbanks to be "supervising producer". NBC did not telecast Crusader Rabbit on their network, but allowed Fairbanks to sell the series in national syndication, with many of the NBC affiliates (including New York and Los Angeles) picking it up for local showings. WNBC-TV in New York continued to show the original Crusader Rabbit episodes from 1949 through 1967, and some affiliates used the program as a time filler as late as the 1970s.
The original series had limited animation, appearing almost as narrated storyboards with frequent cuts and minor movement by the characters. This was due to the limited budget that producers Jay Ward and Alex Anderson had to film the series.
Each program began with a title sequence of a mounted knight galloping across the screen. The episodes then featured a short, usually satirical, adventure in the form of a movie serial, ending with a cliffhanger.
Crusader Rabbit was originally syndicated from 1950 to 1951, totaling 195 episodes (divided into ten "crusades"), and was re-aired for many years. It featured Crusader Rabbit, his companion Ragland T. Tiger (Rags), and their occasional nemesis - Dudley Nightshade (called Ill-regard Beauregard in a few episodes), and his sidekick Bilious Green. Some episodes also featured Crusader & Rags's friends Garfield the Groundhog and/or Arson & Sterno (two-headed dragons). Ragland Tiger's name came from the jazz tune "Tiger Rag" his middle initial "T" stands for The (as in Rags The Tiger), while Dudley Nightshade's was a play on the poisonous plant, "deadly nightshade".
The series was revived and 13 new "crusades" (totaling 260 color episodes) were produced in 1957 by Shull Bonsall's Capital Enterprises. Bonsall had bought out Television Arts Productions and gained the rights to Crusader Rabbit, after a long legal battle between Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, Jerry Fairbanks and NBC over who owned the series. Animation was provided by Bonsall's Creston Studios, also known as "TV Spots, Inc.", supervised by Bob Ganon and Gerald Ray. Bonsall was one of the animators on the original Anderson and Ward episodes. The new series was not seen until early 1959.
Lucille Bliss provided the voice of Crusader Rabbit in the original series; she was replaced by Ge Ge Pearson in the revived series. Vern Louden played Rags in both. Dudley Nightshade was voiced by Russ Coughlan, and narration was by Roy Whaley.
The success of Crusader Rabbit inspired many more television cartoons series. Jay Ward would later produce The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. In 1985, Rhino Entertainment released the first two volumes of Crusader Rabbit in a planned home-video release of all the original episodes. However, 20th Century Fox claimed right by their acquisition of previous owner Metromedia Producers Corporation. No further Rhino releases of Crusader Rabbit were allowed.
The first series aired from 1950 to 1952 through syndication, with 195 episodes produced.
- Crusader vs. the State of Texas (15 chapters)
- Crusader vs. the Pirates (20 chapters)
- Crusader and the Rajah of Rinsewater (20 chapters)
- Crusader and the Schmohawk Indians (15 chapters)
- Crusader and the Great Horse Mystery (20 chapters)
- Crusader and the Circus (10 chapters)
- Crusader in the Tenth Century (30 chapters)
- Crusader and the Mad Hollywood Scientist (15 chapters)
- Crusader and the Leprechauns (25 chapters)
- Crusader and the Showboat (25 chapters)
- Executive Producer: Jerry Fairbanks
- Producers: Jay Ward, Alex Anderson
- Director: Alex Anderson
- Story: Alex Anderson, Joe Curtin, Hal Goodman, Arthur North, Lloyd Turner
- Artists: Alex Anderson, Bob Bastian, Bob Bemiller, Chuck Fusion, Randy Grochoski, Ed King, Ted Martine, Bob Mills, Lee Mishkin, Grim Natwick, Russ Scholl, Jim Scott, John Sparey, Dean Spille, Spaulding White, Volney White
- Camera: Bob Oleson, Jack Williams
- Editor: Tom Stanford
- Lucille Bliss - Crusader Rabbit
- Vern Louden - Ragland T. Tiger
- Roy Whaley - Narrator
The second series premiered in 1957 through syndication, with 260 episodes were produced, 20 "chapters" per episode. They were later edited into 13 one-hour programs.
- The Great Uranium Hunt (aka Mine Your Own Business)
- The Yukon Adventure
- Tales of Schmerwood Forest (aka Crook's Tour)
- West We Forget
- Sahara You
- Gullibles Travels
- Should Auld Acquaintance Be for Cotton
- Nothing Atoll
- Scars and Stripes
- Apes of Rath
- Caesar's Salad (aka No Place Like Rome)
- The Great Baseball Mystery (aka Gone With the Wind-Up)
- The Search for the Missing Link
- Executive Producer: Shull Bonsall
- Director: Sam Nicholson
- Animation Director: Bob Bemiller
- Story: Chris Bob Hayward, Barbara Chain
- Story Sketch: Jack Miller
- Music Scoring: Art Becker
- Sound Effects: Ray Erlenborn, Gene Twambley
- Layout: Ed Levitt
- Animators: Alex Ignatiev, Bob Matz, Reuben Timmens, Joseph Price, John Sparey, Marv Woodward
- Backgrounds: David Weidman, Eleanor Bogardus, Rosemary O'Connor
- Ink and Paint: Martha Buckley, Maggi Alcumbrac
- Production Planning: Dave Hoffman
- Camera: Julian E. Raymond, Ted Bemiller
- Editors: Charles McCann, Norman Vizents
- Production Supervision: Bob Ganon
- GeGe Pearson - Crusader Rabbit
- Vern Louden - Ragland T. Tiger
- Roy Whaley - Narrator
- Russ Coughlan - Dudley Nightshade