|Mr. Magoo was a snooty, incredibly near-sighted character who was constantly getting himself into comedic trouble due to his intense myopia and chronic stubborness. Despite his lack of vision, Magoo had been entrusted as the caretaker of his little nephew Waldo, who was always drawn in to his uncle’s mishaps.
Jim Backus, best known as millionaire Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island, provided the voice for Magoo before, during, and after the actor’s island stay.
Although first seen as a regular series in 1960, the character of Mr. Magoo actually dates back to 1949, when he starred in a series of UPA theatrical animated shorts. In 1956, Quincy Magoo could be seen on four 60-second spots, hawking beer. While a near-blind, bumbling man probably wasn’t the best choice to represent an alcoholic product, at least it kept the curmudgeonly guy in the spotlight.
Four years later, Magoo finally got his own syndicated show, Mr. Magoo. The program added a new roster of supporting characters, including free-spirited Mother Magoo, rich uncle Tycoon Magoo, Tycoon's butler Worcestershire, Chinese houseboy Charlie, and Magoo's pets, a dog named Casear and a hamster named Hamlet. Produced with corner-cutting animation, the series won audiences over with its silly sight gags and jokes geared as much for parents as for their children. The show also scored points for being broadcast in color, one of the few syndicated color programs available at the time.
In all, 130 five-minute shorts were produced and shipped out in syndicated packages between 1960 and 1962. In 1964, Magoo returned to TV for UPA's The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. The new show ran for only one year, after which the character was relegated to repeats and the occasional special. In 1977, DePatie-Freleng delivered What's New, Mr. Magoo? to CBS' Saturday morning schedule, with Backus still performing the old coot's voice. After two seasons, Magoo faded into pop culture limbo until a 1997 live-action feature, starring Leslie Nielsen in the title role.