This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the Harlem Globetrotters. The famed basketball team, founded in 1927, has become famous for their acrobatics on the basketball court. Said fame even led to becoming cartoon characters.
The Globetrotters’ first animated appearance was in a self-named Saturday morning series for CBS for the 1970-1971 season. This makes the Globetrotters the first American animated TV series primarily starring an African-American cast. (Its lead-in show, “Josie and the Pussycats,” also featured Saturday morning’s first African-American woman character, Valerie.)
The series, produced by Hanna-Barbera, kept with the then-new formula of “traveling group meets up with trouble around the world and solves it with their unique skills.” In this case, the Globetrotters’ basketball skills.
The show aired over two seasons, totaling 22 episodes. After the show’s cancellation, the Globetrotters next starred in several episodes of “The New Scooby-Doo Movies.”
In the late 70s, the Globetrotters appeared again in another Hanna-Barbera animated series, this time on NBC. 1979’s “The Super Globetrotters” featured the team as a group of superheroes. Three of the members possessed powers/costumes resembling those of mid-60s Hanna-Barbera series “The Impossibles.” A somewhat different cast was present for this series (reflecting the changes in the real-life Globetrotters team’s roster). The show lasted for one season.
An episode of “The Simpsons” sees Krusty bet on their rivals, the Washington Generals. (“I thought the Generals were due!”)
One episode of “Futurama” portrays the team as beings from another planet.
An episode of “Pinky and the Brain” (the episode “Brain’s Song”) mentioned Globetrotter star Meadowlark Lemon.
“The Fairly OddParents” episode “Odd Ball” also references the Globetrotters. The incidental music for the episode is reminiscent of the Globetrotters’ famed whistled theme song “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Meanwhile, Dimmsdale’s rival basketball team is named the “Earthtrotters.”
On TV/home video
As of this writing, 1979’s “Super Globetrotters” has been released to DVD, though the original series remains absent.
The team’s appearances on “The New Scooby-Doo Movies” are all available on DVD on a one-disc release titled “Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters.” Due to rights related issues, the episodes weren’t included in the actual “Best of The New Scooby-Doo Movies” DVD box set, hence the “Best of” title.
The “Simpsons,” “Pinky and the Brain,” “Fairly Odd Parents,” and “Futurama” episodes referencing the Globetrotters are available on DVD as part of those shows’ season box sets.