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As a kid in the 1980's growing up in Canada, I used to wake up early and watch TV while eating my Quaker Instant Oatmeal or Red River Cereal. My favourite show was on at about 5:30am and oddly enough (considering I was 7), it was an educational show. Not odd at all (considering I'm a Canadian), is that it was an American show.

The Wonderful Stories of Professor Kitzel was a cartoon hosted by a character named Professor Kitzel, who was a short, bald, white man with a white moustache and glasses. Each show was only 4-5 minutes in length and featured an introduction by the professor and then a slide show about some historical event or personality. The majority of topics were related to American history, however there was some Canadian content and world history as well.

The Professor Kitzel show was usually part of a montage of short cartoons or used in place of a commercial break for a longer show.

Created in 1971/1972 by M.G. Animation and distributed by Worldvision, Professor Kitzel was immediately released in syndication. The short-lived series was produced and directed by Shamus Culhane and narrated entirely by Paul Soles (b. 1931), who also did the voice of Peter Parker in the original Spider-man cartoons.

As each episode began, professor Kitzel would walk up to his desk, covered in books and inkwells and slide rules, beside which sat his parrot on its stand. Kitzel would introduce his topic for the show and usually try to talk to his parrot, who always seemed to be in a bad mood or sleeping and didn't seem to like the professor much, but the professor would always throw him a cracker.

Next, the prof would invite the audience to take a look at his Time Machine, which wasn't really a device for travelling through time but provided a view into scenes from the past.

The professor would pull the slot-machine-like lever on the side of the machine and as the camera zoomed into the screen, showing a pulsing electronic waveform and making some electronic sound effects, the view would dissolve into the opening frame of this episode's feature.

The feature was usually a collection of cartoon slides, not animated, but the camera would pan and zoom around each slide to give the impression of action and movement. Sound effects and music would accompany the narration as the story was told.

Each story would explain a historical event in language that a child could understand but without "dumbing it down". When people suffered, they said so. When people died, they said so. If they called someone a hero, they explained why he was a hero. It was a smart show made for smart kids.

Once the story was finished, the view would return to the professor at the Time Machine and he'd have some closing comments to make about what we'd seen. I recall the show usually ended on a humorous note, with the professor making some kind of amusing or self-deprecating remark.

They don't make shows like this one anymore. And by that I mean educational to this degree, where they expected something of their viewers. The entire show was also hand drawn and coloured, with all the imperfections and qualities inherent to that media.

Sources:
Experiences of a Candian kid
www.toonarific.com
ebay.com
imdb.com

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