Heckle and Jeckle are a pair of look-alike tricksters created by Paul Terry. They're pals who routinely outwit and play pranks on folks, mischievous and often on the move these two birds are always getting into trouble and messing with anyone that they can.
While coming up with ideas for a Farmer Al Falfa cartoon Paul Terry hit upon the idea of having him deal with two characters who would be identical in both design and movement, and so for the 1946 cartoon "The Talking Magpies" Al and a dimwitted dog were paired against a married couple who were both wise-cracking birds, and the cartoon was quite a hit with audiences and so that very same year the studio decided to make another cartoon with Al, the dog, and a pair of Magpies. However this time the idea was slightly retooled, now instead of dealing with a husband and wife, they dealt with a duo of male friends, and while one of them referred to the other as 'Joe', this team would soon come to be known as 'Heckle' and 'Jeckle'. The names were inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novella "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" with Jeckle being named after Dr. Jekyll and Heckle's name coming from the common trope of the 'heckler character' which is exactly what they were.
Soon the two gain so much popularity that with their third cartoon and every other short after they were gifted the spotlight no longer appearing with Al Falfa, the dopey sounding dog also made the jump alongside Heckle and Jeckle as their chief adversary, always at odds with them wither it be because their bothering him or simply doing something he doesn't like. Heckle and Jeckle were two fast-thinking tricksters who could do impossible things by virtue of being well aware that they're cartoon characters, a lot of the time they'd mess with somebody just for fun, but there were also plenty of times that they served as comedic heroes trying to help someone out or give an antagonist their comeuppance, however, in a number of their cartoons (perhaps most) their foes sere the ones who won in the end. Throughout the shorts, both characters were voiced at different times by Sid Raymond, Ned Sparks, Dayton Allen, and Roy Halee. The title 'The Talking Magpies' became their moniker for the rest of their career.
For their first few cartoons, they always changed their voices from scene to scene for comedic effect but not long after they were given more consistent vocals. One magpie spoke with an English accent, while the other spoke with a New York dialect, there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty as to which was which with some viewers, the first short to state who was "Bulldozing The Bull", where they clearly refer to each other by name, with the Brooklyn accent belonging to Heckle and the English accent belonging to Jeckle, and this remained wholly consistent through all the cartoons. They usually referred to each other by nicknames as opposed to their real ones, Heckle often refers to Jeckle simply as 'chum' or 'pal', while Jeckle often refers to Heckle as 'old chap' 'old boy' and 'old feather-head', indicating a close friendship between them, some people believe them to be brothers, however this has never been stated.
Dimwit wasn't their only foe however, because starting with the 1947 cartoon "The Intruders" a new character was created, a mean and tough bulldog who'd later be named Clancy, he at first seemed like only a one-time foe however after a few design tweaks he began appearing more often as a reoccurring enemy, and sometimes he and Dimwit were teamed up in several cartoons, with Clancy always being the one in charge out of the two.
Many of the cartoons would show them as being on the road salesmen, going to insane lengths to push their cheap novelty products, which usually attracted the attention of Dimwit, Clancy, or some other person to try and chase them off. The things they sold ranged from useless, to well made, to completely nonsensical
The cartoons alongside Mighty Mouse were by far the most popular and successful shorts being put out by TerryToons during that time from the 40's to the '50s, however, their series wouldn't last, as in 1955 the retiring Paul Terry decided to sell the studio along with their characters to CBS and 20th Century Fox, The new owner installed Gene Deitch in charge of things, under his direction characters like Heckle & Jeckle and the rest were phased out in favor of new creations.
Around that time in 1956 The Heckle and Jeckle Cartoon Show had begun airing on CBS, which showcased not only the Heckle and Jeckle cartoons, but also several others, such as Dinky Duck, Little Roquefort, and the Terry Bears. the show ran for several years, and during the 60's and 70's showed more recently made TerryToons such as James Hound, Sad Cat, and Possible Possum.
Producer Bill Weiss was not a fan of the UPA inspired work being put out under Gene Deitch's direction, he wanted him gone, and in 1958 he got his wish, as he fired Gene and took control of the studio. Under his supervision, Heckle and Jeckle went back into production, from 1959 to 1961 they starred in 7 newly created cartoons with "Wild Life" being the first of these. The cartoons were made with much cheaper budgets, not much higher then that of an television production, the Magpies were also redesigned to better fit the era and to be easier to animate, being made smaller and somewhat cuter, as well as losing their grey underbellies, they were also made a much brighter shade of black, more of a dark grey. The films were fine yet didn't do as well as Bill had hoped, other new characters from around this time did much better, like Deputy Dawg and even Hector Heathcote, and so the characters were once more put away after this short-lived revival.
In 1966, 5 years after their last film, one final attempt was made at bringing the team back into the spotlight with the cartoon "Messed Up Movie Makers", which had sketchy outlines and slightly more fluid movement, it also gave the characters another redesign looking more like they did before with grey bellies and larger proportions, however, it seemed as if bringing these two back would be more work then it was worth, especially since they could always just play the older cartoons on TV.
In 1999, the birds made an appearance on television in a Nickelodeon pilot called Curbside. The magpies acted as talk show hosts, while interviewing other Terrytoons characters such as Deputy Dawg. Sadly, it was never picked up. The pilot can be viewed online however. The birds were also changed from magpies to crows.
- McDougal's Rest Farm
- Happy Go Lucky
- Cat Trouble
- The Intruders
- Flying South
- Fishing By the Sea
- The Super Salesman
- The Hitch Hikers
- Taming the Cat (Submitted to Oscars in hope that it'd be nominated, it wasn't.)
- A Sleepless Night
- Magpie Madness
- Free Enterprise
- Out Again in Again
- Goony Golfers
- The Power of Thought
- Papa's Little Helpers (Cameo on movie theater poster)
- Off to the Opera
- House Busters
- Moose on the Loose
- Pirate's Gold (Released late)
One thing we haven't mentioned yet are the comics, in 1947 the same year that they began appearing in their own cartoons, the pair started to appear in Terrytoons Comics, which at that time was published by the company that would later become Marvel. they have been published sporadically in comics from a half-dozen different publishers, appearing several anthologies, there also several time that they were given their own series, over all there were 8 comics named after the duo, one were to put all their respective issues together you get a total of 60 comics not counting stories from other comics not giving them top billing. Their most recent appearance in that medium was in 1987.
In the late 1970's, CBS was interested to producing a new TV series of cartoons with the classic TerryToon characters, so the animation studio Filmation, which had be gaining traction was given the job of bringing the series to life, the series starred Mighty Mouse as well as Heckle and Jeckle, and a newly created character called Quacula, in the series Frank Welker provided the voices for Heckle and jeckle. The dynamic between the two changed slightly, with Jeckle often being the one in charge instead of them always being on the same page, and also having Heckle be more of a goof up.
Heckle and Jeckle along side several other TerryToon characters appeared in Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, in the episode "Mighty's Wedlock Whimsy" as some of Mighty's friends who attend both his bachelor party as well as his wedding, the two sadly didn't have any speaking lines.
In 1999, Nickelodeon created the pilot Curbside, It was meant to re-introduce the Terrytoons characters to a newer younger audience, with the format being presented as if it was a late night talk show hosted by Heckle and Jeckle, and accompanied by Dinky Duck, featuring three newly created shorts starring other Terrytoons characters. The strangest thing about the pilot is that they got the character's names wrong, Heckle the more easy going one is called Jeckle, and Jeckle the more refined one is called Heckle. They were also changed from magpies to crows. The pilot aired on Nickelodeon. However, the series was never picked it. Making it the latest thing these characters have appeared in.
Paul Terry considered the Heckle & Jeckle series of cartoons the best his studio ever made. There's little doubt that Heckle and Jeckle are two of the most beloved and well received characters to have come out of the studio, with their names being some of the biggest in classic animation.
While it was been years since the last big project starring Heckle and Jeckle they will always be highly important fingers in TerryToons' history, and it's highly doubtful that this is the last we'll be seeing of them. They're friends in fair or stormy feather.
- Heckle and Jeckle were planned to have a cameo in the deleted scene "Acme's Funeral" from the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- Curbside is the only project in which Heckle and Jeckle were voiced by two different people instead of one, and were changed from magpies to crows.