Minorities in cartoons: Pete Jones

Pete JonesThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Pete Jones, a supporting character on the 1969 Saturday morning cartoon series “The Hardy Boys.” The series is based on the classic children’s mystery/adventure novels.

Background

In this Filmation-produced animated series, the Hardy Boys and their friends—Pete, Chubby, and Wanda—would travel the country as a rock group. Pete served as the group’s drummer. The Hardys and company inevitably got involved in some mystery or crime that needed to be solved, similar to the original novels.

The half-hour show featured two separate 12-minute episodes, plus live-action opening and closing credits. There was also a musical number in each episode by the animated Hardy Boys band, similar to Filmation’s previous hit “The Archie Show.”

“The Hardy Boys” ran on ABC during the 1969-70 season, and again in reruns the following season. The show’s an early entry in the “kids solving mysteries/fighting crime” genre. However, the extremely stiff competition is probably what led to its short run:

  • NBC: “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour”
  • CBS: “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”

Yes, this was also the debut year of “Scooby-Doo,” which was the biggest hit of the season. Scooby, of course, would go on to become one of TV’s most popular cartoon characters, remaining popular right to this day.

Pete’s (as far as I can tell) the first Black recurring character in an American TV cartoon. Before this point, African-Americans in animation were either non-existent or (in theatrical shorts) shown as degrading, offensive stereotypes. Pete marked the first time viewers (of all races) could regularly see a Black animated character that looked and acted like a normal person. He was also treated with respect by his peers.

The following few TV seasons would see more African-American cartoon characters, including Valerie Smith of “Josie and the Pussycats,” “The Jackson Five,” and the “Harlem Globetrotters.

Other media

Pete also appeared in the Gold Key “Hardy Boys” comic tie-in, which ran for four issues.

Voice actors

Dallas McKennon voiced Pete. McKennon did a fair number of voices for Filmation at the time, including Archie Andrews, Mr. Weatherbee, and Chuck Clayton.

Bob Crowder played Pete’s live-action self. Crowder was a session drummer who performed for various R&B musicians in the 70s.

Finally, YouTube has the live-action opening credits for the series, complete with Pete on the drums.

(Updated 11/12/16)

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