|A true television pioneer, Crusader Rabbit was produced by Jay Ward, who would later go on to create Rocky and His Friends, George of the Jungle and The Adventures of Hoppity Hooper.
The witty five-minute episodes—presented in serial form—showed the exploits of the diminutive noble adventurer Crusader Rabbit and his dim but loveable sidekick, Ragland T. "Rags" Tiger. Short of temper but lacking the physical strength to back up his threats, Crusader Rabbit got himself in hot water with villains like Bilious Green, Illregard Beauregard and Simon LeGree.
A milestone in TV history, Crusader Rabbit was the first made-for-television animated series. Skeptics thought a weekly animated series would be too costly to turn a profit, but Ward came up with a way to buck the system: limited animation. Most classically animated theatrical cartoons had 40 cels (individual drawings) per foot of film, but Ward's new style would utilize only 4 cels per foot. As a result, the 19.5-minute shows came in at approximately $2,500 per episode.
Jay Ward worked with partner Alexander Anderson in a Berkley, California garage studio, drawing the pictures for the cartoon. The pair then sent the sketches to producer Jerry Fairbanks in Los Angeles to add the soundtrack. The system remained in effect for the series' initial run, from 1949 to 1951.
A second set of episodes was produced in 1957, but by this time Ward was already in development on Rocky and His Friends. The new Crusader Rabbit cartoons may have suffered from Ward's absence, but they did add two elements to the mix: color production and a new villain, Dudley Nightshade (a.k.a. Nightly Dudshade, a.k.a. Shadely Nightdud).
Unavailable for years, Crusader Rabbit (both the Ward version and the later color one) has since emerged from animation limbo, surfacing on videocassette to claim its rightful place among animation's greats.