For a brief moment in Saturday morning cartoon history, there was an ABC show called The Jackson 5ive. Airing from 1971 to 1972, the colorful, psychedelic cartoon versions of Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael embarked on adventures together—when they weren't too busy jamming, of course.
1. The Jackson 5 were not involved.
Due to their recording and touring schedule, none of the animated Jacksons were voiced by their real-life counterparts. However, the opening credits did use pictures of the quintet, and some musical numbers included footage from their performances.
2. Paul Frees was the most accomplished of the actors to lend their voices to the cartoon.
On The Jackson 5ive, Frees voiced a variety of characters, including that of Motown founder Berry Gordy. Prior to joining the show, he had more than 200 film and television credits on his resume, including voicing The Thing on Fantastic 4 (1967-1968), Sherlock Holmes in The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (1964-1965), and Boris on The Bullwinkle Show (1960).
3. The 13-year-old who voiced Michael is the only cast member still doing voice acting.
Since The Jackson 5ive, Donald Fullilove has voiced characters in dozens of movies and television series including Mulan (1998), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Monsters University (2013), and American Dad! (2009). He also played the role of Mayor Goldie Wilson in Back to the Future (1985).
4. Other stars found success elsewhere.
Edmund Sylvers, who voiced Marlon, was the lead singer of the 1970s R&B group The Sylvers. Mike Martinez (Tito) has worked as a stunt and fight coordinator and performer on movies like Ocean's Thirteen (2007), Milk (2008), and Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014). He's also been a stunt rigger for MythBusters (2006).
5. The band's fictionalized origin story perpetuates a Motown myth.
Contributing to the show's Motown magic is the tale told in the series' pilot: that it was Diana Ross who discovered the brothers Jackson. In real life, there are many other theories as to who "discovered" the talented youngsters. Nonetheless, in the series' first episode, “It All Started With…,” Michael's pet snake, Rosie, escapes his cage and ends up in Ross' dressing room. When Michael bikes over to the theater to rescue him, the older brothers worry about their younger sibling's safety and chase after him. After retrieving his snake and befriending Ross, Michael and his brothers are invited to stay and hear the show. While roaming around the theater, they pick up the instruments sitting on stage and start playing. When Ross hears them, she invites them to Detroit to meet with Berry Gordy.
6. The show was co-produced by Rankin/Bass Productions.
Founded by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass in 1960, Rankin/Bass Productions was responsible for such stop-motion holiday classics as Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Frosty the Snowman (1969), and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970).
7. All of the music came straight from The Jackson 5.
Each episode included two musical numbers, all of which came from The Jackson 5's library. Using the music posed no licensing problems, though; Motown Productions co-produced the show.
8. The Jackson 5ive was just one piece of The Jackson 5's growing empire.
By 1971, the band had already achieved both musical and merchandising success. There were posters, stickers, and even a board game. The next logical step? Bringing the boys (and their music) directly into America's living rooms—in animated form.
9. It was one of the first cartoon representations of a black family.
Producers tapped Robert Balser as animation director for the series, who was best known for his work on Yellow Submarine (1968). A 2013 CNN article explains Balser's approach to bringing the Jacksons to life: Though he gave his team of artists only a few guidelines and encouraged them to be as creative as they wanted, he “was also adamant that the show—one of the first cartoon representations of a black family—be fair and not resort to cheap gags and stereotyping,” according to the article.
"When I came in, the series had been started," Balser recalled. "I was not happy with the approach they were doing because ... [this] was going to be the first series directed at young people that was about a black group, and I felt that it was really important that it be shown in a creative way, that they solved their problems with music and with intelligence and not with violence—which had started out as the approach in the first episode."
10. The series was revived in the 1980s.
To capitalize on Michael Jackson's superstar status, ABC brought the series back via syndication in the 1980s.