Remember when Rick Springfield was a cartoon character? I’m not talking about just providing a voice here either, I’m talking about Rick Springfield, as himself, as an actual two dimensional cartoon character. You didn’t just dream that up. Long before Rick was a working class dog wishing he had Jessie’s girl, Rick appeared on our television screens in the Filmation show “Mission: Magic!”. It was a spinoff of “The Brady Kids” and was likely an inspiration for the PBS series, “The Magic School Bus”.
Rick was a much bigger celebrity in his native Australia in those days. A few years earlier he made a move to the northern hemisphere to try and make it big in America. He had released two solo albums with some great music, but also some rather serious and sometimes depressing subject matter, with limited success. He started to dip his toes into acting as well and when the opportunity came along to do a cartoon show where he would write and perform the music he jumped at the chance.
The second of his two solo albums, “Comic Book Heroes”, would provide the inspiration for the look of his character. The cover of the album showed Rick in a white super hero costume with a chest insignia consisting of a lower case letter r over a lightning bolt. For the character design, the insignia was on a white sleeveless sweater he wore over a white button down shirt. He also wore white shoes and white bell bottoms. You could actually see him in the costume in live action when he appeared on The ABC Saturday morning preview show with Avery Schreiber and Jack Burns. The show had him popping up with Goober, the invisible dog from “Goober and the Ghost Chasers”. He also had a conversation with Batman, and played an acoustic version of the theme from “Mission: Magic!”
The show itself centered around a teacher named Miss Tickle, with an expert knowledge of magic. Some of her students formed an adventurers club. She takes those students on adventures to mystical lands where they solve mysteries and learn morals. Rick Springfield would contact the students through a magic gramophone and Miss Tickle would draw a door on the chalkboard. She brought a statue of her cat, Tut Tut, to life and then they would all go through the magic door to end up with Rick and his owl named Ptolemy. During each show Rick would sing a song that usually tied in to the moral learned on that particular episode, a Filmation standard. There would also be psychedelic seizure inducing animation during the song, another Filmation standard. Rick of course wrote, and performed all the songs and there was a Mission: Magic! album produced.
Rick Springfield (himself) – an Australian musician/singer/songwriter with an owl for a familiar who seems to always be getting drawn into trouble in one mystical land or another.
Miss Tickle (Lola Fisher) – A teacher with a pun for a name (I didn’t catch it until years later) and a cat for a familiar. She secretly has magical abilities and sometimes sings her dialogue.
Kim (Erika Scheimer) – The student leader of “The Adventurers Club”
Carol (Erika Scheimer) – A student with a crush on Rick Springfield
Vinnie (Howard Morris) – A student who had a New York accent and got words mixed up a lot
Socks (Howard Morris) – A goofy student who always wears a blue hat
Franklin (Lane Scheimer) – A student-athlete
Harvey (Lane Scheimer) – A nerdy student
“The Land of Backwards” – They visit a land where everything works backwards
“Modran” – They visit the Land of Prestidigitation and meet a genie
“Dissonia” – They encounter a world where villains are trying to eliminate all music
“Land of Hyde and Go Seek” – They visit a warring world where hairstyles are important
“The City Inside the Earth” – They visit an underground city
“2600 A.D.” – They visit a future with a robot who rules humans
“Something Fishy” – They visit an underwater city
“Giant Steppes” – They visit a land of giants
“Statue of Limitations” – Three magicians have the same stolen statue
“Will the Real Rick Springfield Please Stand Up?” – Two shapeshifters take on Rick’s appearance
“Doctor Astro” – Zodiac signs come to life
“Doctor Daguerreotype” – An inventor comes up with a way of turning things into photos
“Nephren” – An ancient Egyptian queen comes back to life
“Modran Returns” – A sorcerer tries to steal Tut Tut
“Horse Feathers” – They attend a rodeo with a no-good cowpoke
“A Light Mystery” – They go to the Land of Lights to retrieve a stolen generator
Part of the idea of the creators of the show was to capitalize on and further enhance Rick Springfield’s teen idol status in America. Rick has said it scarred him for life and he was mainly doing it for the money. He went on to act in front of the camera on other shows including two appearances on “Wonder Woman” which helped with transitioning his accent from Australian to American. One more album would be made in the 1970s with limited success before he would hit it big in the 1980s with a stint on “General Hospital” and then “Working Class Dog”. I imagine many of his teenage fans in the 80s were just the right age to have seen him on Saturday mornings several years earlier.
Rick may not think highly of his time with the show but it definitely introduced him to a larger American audience, and for those of us who loved Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s, we’ll remember when Rick was a 2D character having magical adventures every week.