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The Space Explorers


The Space Explorers

from Chuck Scholtz

Feb 24 2004

Chuck Scholtz Takes a Look at the Animated Series

If you were a kid growing up in the middle of the 1950 - 1960's "Space Race" era, you had the pleasure and privilege to watch the myriad of space cartoons being broadcast on the air. Each morning, shows like Captain Satellite, Captain Kangaroo, Captain Video, Sheriff John, and even Romper Room with "Miss Connie" showed cartoons like: Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Space Patrol, Fireball XL-5, Ultra Man, Rocket Man, Commando Cody ......and "The Space Explorers"

A new website entitled, has emerged out of the clear blue to revive interest, preserve the memory, and dedicate this early animated outer-space cartoon series to its recently deceased Producer, William D. Cayton.

THE PLOT: The cartoon "feature" series tells the story of a young boy named "Jimmy" who is the son of astronaut, "Commander Perry". Some years earlier, Commander Perry blasted off in his Polaris-I spacecraft for the Planet Mars, and has not been heard from in several years. In the meantime, his friend and assistant "Professor Nordheim" has been building an identical rescueship named the Polaris-II which he plans to use to search for the commander. Unbeknownst to the professor, as the final preparations are made by Nordheim to launch the rescue ship, son Jimmy stows-away in a wooden crate inside the rocket. After a brief countdown, the Polaris-II, with Professor Nordheim and his faithful female assistant and navigator "Smitty" blast off in search of Jimmy's father. After a brief period of time, Jimmy climbs out of the crate and surprises the professor and Smitty with his presence. The trio navigate space together in search of Commander Perry, but it seems that no matter where they land, they are always a few days behind the commander. The rest of the story and its conclusion are explained on the new "The Space Explorers" website so it won't be discussed in greater detail here.

PRODUCTION: Designed as an educational programming, the "visuals" from the cartoon series were most memorable as a child growing up. From their point-of-view sitting inside the rocket with the characters, children learned about the principles of space exploration and space travel just by looking through the enormous star-lit front glass window. As the Polaris spaceship traveled through vast regions of space, basic and elemental aspects of science, physics and astronomy were discussed and explained such as Newton's theory of "gravity," Albert Einstein's theory of "matter," "weightlessness," "oxygen," and so on. As various planets are passed over at low altitude, there are discussions on the age, size, color, surface appearance, and composition of the planet etc.

Ten Facts About "The Space Explorers" Animated Cartoon Series:

  1. "The Space Explorers" was first released in 1957 and hasn't been shown anywhere since 1964 (off-air for forty years!).
  2. It was produced by advertising agency executive William "Bill" Cayton. Bill Cayton was also "Iron Mike" Tyson's boxing manager from 1984 - 1988!
  3. Cast of characters: Commander Perry, Jimmy (son of Commander Perry), Professor Nordheim, and "Smitty" the navigator.
  4. Written and directed by animator Fred Ladd who also worked on such cartoons as Kimba, Astro Boy, Gigantor and many others.
  5. It was "dubbed" from a 1939 German propaganda film entitled "Weltraumschiff 1 Startet" (Spaceship 1 Launches)
  6. The names of the two spaceships piloted by Commander Perry and Professor Nordheim were: Polaris-I and Polaris-II
  7. On October 4th, 1957 due to the successful launch of the Russian space satellite named "Sputnik" and the existing momentum of "the space race," a sequel was released early in 1958 named: "The New Adventures of the Space Explorers."
  8. The U.S. Government, the Air Force, NASA, and the Hayden Planetarium in New York partnered to produce this series to stimulate creativity and an interest in children to pursue careers in outer-space exploration.
  9. Like the familiar computer screensaver, the front of the Polaris spaceship had a huge dome-shaped glass window that enabled everyone inside to see the planets, asteroids, moons, and stars approaching.
  10. The sole surviving son of the producer, the late William Cayton has the original 16mm master films. Sometime later this year, or maybe the next, he may re-release them for everyone to enjoy!

The entire history, the cast of characters, the plot, interesting animated graphics and the full credits are available on the new website #10;

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