1962: Clipper Cowbridge

1963: The Swiss Invasion

1965: Marilyn Kaye

1969: The Fold

1970: Yorgi

1971: Devon Shire

1972: Sandee Saunders

1976: Rockfinger

1978: The Spooky Bunch

1979: Decoupage

1981: Bleep

1984: Tiger Love

1985: Laryssa Foxxx

1986: Smasher of Things

1987: Suthrn Cuzn

1989: ~pianogirl~

1990: Razorflesh

1995: Breaker Bear

1996: Action Plus

1998: J Lounge

2001: Eesk

2004: Lazarus Project

The Spooky Bunch: Scared Off the Air (1978)

Logo from The Spooky Bunch, a problematic 1970s cartoon series.

MANY 1970s CARTOONS are remembered primarily for the merchandise they spawned. Perhaps that’s why few recall the short-lived animated series The Spooky Bunch, which aired for a few months in the 1978-1979 season before protests from conservative groups led to its cancellation.

The Spooky Bunch was a transitory, troubled brand that never justified snack foods, apparel, school supplies, or a live-action movie. The show drew fire for its occult content and morally ambiguous storylines — and especially for its gender-bending lead character, Jule Day. Critics found the rousing “Theme from The Spooky Bunch” to be overtly sexual and subversive.

They were right. And that’s why we like it.

MORE! Spooky Bunch creator Lowen Bell explains how only teenage sex can save our species from the Zildars and Aracleons…


“Theme from The Spooky Bunch

The Spooky Bunch lyrics and credits


After scoring an early success with the soundtrack album to the Prayer Bears cartoon series, Clubbo remained interested in possible TV tie-ins. So in 1978, when Kidstuff Productions proposed a joint venture in support of its latest series, label head Morris “Bo” Bogerman leapt at the opportunity. After all, Kidstuff creative director Lowen Bell was basking in the success of such Saturday morning smashes as Tinosaurs! (tiny dinosaurs inhabit a suburban garden), The Stumblies (clumsy superheroes with detachable arms and legs), and The Adventures of Butch Whacker (wilderness mishaps of an ill-starred explorer). What could go wrong?

Animation cell from The Spooky Bunch, a problematic 1970s cartoon series.

Bell’s new brainstorm, The Spooky Bunch, aired only briefly during the ’78-’79 season. If it’s recalled at all today, it’s less likely to be for its animation or ratings (neither were remarkably good or bad) than for the culture skirmish it spawned.

At issue — initially, anyway — was what some viewed as the show’s inappropriate content. The title characters were a team of plucky teens who employed supernatural powers in an ongoing battle against the Aracleons, a race of invisible extraterrestrial spiders, and their human-looking minions, the Zildars.

The teens’ gleeful use of black magic wasn’t the only detail that drew the ire of the ascendant conservative forces that would soon sweep Reagan into office. Another was the character of Jule Day, the group’s ringleader. Jule’s precise gender was never specified, though a provocative wardrobe of garters, corsets, high heels, and biker gear led some to conclude that the character was a transvestite. An additional sore point was a theme song that included the words “horny” and “kinky.”

Conservative watchdog groups set up picket lines outside Kidstuff’s North Hollywood offices. For weeks it was impossible to drive down Ventura Boulevard without seeing the “Keep Saturday Morning Faggot-Free” and “Satan Loves the Spooky Bunch” banners. After their attempts to silently weather the controversy failed, Kidstuff scheduled a press conference, to be chaired by series creator Bell.

Spooky Bunch TV Guide cover

“Everyone knew Lowen was a different kind of thinker,” recalls Rick Swig, a leading animator who then worked as a Kidstuff production assistant. “I remember everyone being a little nervous about him being in front of the camera, because we’d heard him say some pretty strange stuff. But if any of us had any idea what was going to come out of his mouth that day, we would have all been at home, digging out our passports and looking into animation opportunities in outer Mongolia.”

Facing off against critics from the newly founded Saturday Morning Betterment Drive (SMBD), Bell launched into a spirited defense of The Spooky Bunch. He proceeded to stun observers on both sides of the debate when he freely admitted that his program was chock-full of sexual and occult content, and that more would be added as the series unfolded. It was essential, Bell explained, because the Aracleons and Zildars were real, and the only way to combat them was to maximize the free release of adolescent sexual energy via masturbation and early sexual experimentation. Even this would only be an effective Aracleon deterrent if accompanied by MOAS (“Magickal Orgonasmic Amplification Spells”).

Transvestites and transsexuals — “eroto-ritualistic dimorphs” — were particularly rich sources of Orgonasmic energy, Bell stated. That’s why Jule Day was the dominant member of the Spooky Bunch. He supplemented his presentation with a series of incomprehensible graphs and charts, and concluded his presentation with the revelation that former president Gerald Ford, tennis star Billie Jean King, and western novelist Louis L’Amour were all prominent Zildars.

“More than anything, it was sad,” remembers Swig. “I think Lowen truly believed he was going to win the Nobel Peace Prize or something, and instead they canned his show and locked him up in some psych ward.”

In Bell’s absence, Kidstuff Productions struggled gamely for several more seasons, but new offerings such as Heavy Doody (featuring a rock band fronted by a puppet) and The Amputoons (a blatant self-cannibalization of The Stumblies) failed to duplicate the studio’s early successes. Kidstuff quietly folded in 1981.

But Bell survived. Deinstitutionalized thanks to the Reagan administration’s mental health cutbacks, he has continued to pursue the anti-Aracleon cause. Concerned parties can visit the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz, CA, where Bell frequently expounds on his research. A summary of his latest findings is available online.

The episode was a disaster for Clubbo, which had gambled heavily on the Kidstuff deal. Thanks to a manufacturing snafu, by the time the records reached the racks the series had been canceled. “I’ve been screwed a lot of times,” Bogerman told The Vinyl Observer in 1980. “But this is the first time I got screwed by an eroto-ritualistic dimorph.”

It would be the last time Clubbo attempted a cartoon tie-in.