Children's Television and Movies

Television has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the fifties. Here is a list of television programs popular with children during the decade.

Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett was one of the most popular family programs. Almost every young boy idolized Fess Parker who played the title character by wearing his famed coonskin cap.

Howdy Doody

Although the series began in the 1940's, The Howdy Doody Show was in its heyday in the 1950's. The show entertained children of all ages as the children were invited to sing and join in the fun. In every episode, there was a live audience of children and their families. Clarabell the Clown made the children laugh. Parents, however, worried about the effects of television as the children went into the rowdy Peanut Gallery to watch the program (American Dream 168).

Captain Kangaroo

After acting as Clarabell the Clown in The Howdy Doody Show, Bob Keeshan acted as Captain Kangaroo which became the longest running children's program ever; it ran from 1955 until 1984. The program was a gentle, yet still entertaining, alternative to the boisterous The Howdy Doody Show. Captain Kangaroo starred with his sidekick, Mr. Green Jeans, and his animal puppets, Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit.


Lassie was one of the most popular television series starring an animal. It is based on the book Lassie by Eric Knight.

The Mickey Mouse Club

The Mickey Mouse Club debuted in 1955, the same year when Disneyland made its grand opening. The original program featured a group of highly talented children and young adolescents, including then-future movie star Annette Funicello, who entertained the children with their singing and dancing.


The cartoon industry made popular during the past two decades continued to thrive in the 1950's. Television sets allowed families to watch cartoons without going to the theatre. Classic cartoons that were popular in the 1940's, such as Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies, Popeye, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Tom and Jerry, Little Lulu, and Woody Woodpecker continued with more episodes in the fifties. Many cartoons were based on comic books, such as Mighty Mouse.

The 1950's also marked the beginning of Saturday morning cartoons for children on television. Children were eager to wake up early on Saturday mornings when they did not have to go to school to watch their favorite characters. Hanna-Barbera which was established in the late 1950's created numerous cartoons for children during the time slot. Many of the Hanna-Barbera characters, including Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, have become cartoon icons.

The 1950's also produced many Christmas programs for children.One of them is the original Frosty the Snowman from 1953.

Although this clip is not a cartoon, the 1950's often used marionettes to bring stories to life, such as The Spirit of Christmas Marionettes in "The Night Before Christmas."

Some cartoons during the decade were influenced by the fascination with space travel, thanks to the space race during the Cold War. This cartoon is a forgotten favorite called The Space Explorers.

Children's Movies

Disney dominated the children's movie industry in the 1950's. Boeder mentions that the decade was the transition year to greater focus on fairy tales. It also marked its signature "Disneyfication" process which produced less darkness and violence in its movies and more cuteness. Disney produced fully animated films as well as live-action films for families. Here is my video presentation of all the animated films produced by Disney.

Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on Jules Verne's novel. It is the first full-length Disney movie that used CinemaScope for its special effects. The technique made the fight of the squid look real.

Old Yeller

Old Yeller is a live action Disney movie based on the namesake novel. It is about a dog who becomes friends with the Coates family in the 1860's and shares many adventures with the family.

The Red Balloon

The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge in French) is not a Disney movie, but a classic French movie based on the book by the same title. It is about a young boy who carries the red balloon.


"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Movie History." Disney Archives. Disney, n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

The American Dream: The 50s. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life, 1998. Print.

"Captain Kangaroo." TVparty!., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2010.

"Old Yeller Movie History." Disney Archives. Disney, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2010.

Television + Toys! by Emily Miller

jack.jpgWatch your favorite program and find out about the newest toys! Here are some television commercials and specials depicting popular toys of the 1950's.

Take a peek into the Mattel Toy Company and find out how a jack-in-the-box is created. Mattel was founded in 1945. In the 1950's, Mattel joined with Disney to advertise toys on the Mickey Mouse Club.

Here, you can view the original Mr. Potato Head by Hasbro. He was, in fact, a potato!

And who can forget SKY KING AND HIS NIECE, PENNY?