DIC Animation City produced the animated series “Dennis the Menace” from 1986-1988, with Crawleys Animation co-producing the second season.
The series draws its inspiration from Hank Ketcham’s comic strip. The Program Exchange distributed the show in syndication in the United States.
CBS aired the second season on Saturday mornings. Each half-hour of the series features three episodes, each lasting six or seven minutes. General Mills sponsored the show and holds its copyright.
Dennis the Menace The Animation
The animated television series “Dennis the Menace” was exceptional. Back in the 1980s, I never missed an opportunity to tune in. The animation was crisp and vibrant, and the voice casting was spot on, perfectly complementing the hilarious and well-developed characters.
The late legendary comedian Phil Hartman added brilliant humor to the show. Furthermore, the show’s music was fitting and elevated the episodes. The storylines were engaging, making each episode a joy to watch.
Don’t miss out if you can catch this show on TV or any recordings. In my view, it stands as one of the iconic animated series of the 1980s.
Visuals and Sound: A 1980s Signature
Beyond its endearing storylines, the series was also celebrated for its unique visual and audio styling. Bright colors, pronounced character designs, and that unmistakable 1980s animation feel—it’s a package of nostalgia for many who grew up during the decade.
The jaunty theme music, a tune that could instantly transport fans back to their childhood, was emblematic of the energy and cheerfulness that the show radiated every Saturday morning.
Program creator: DIC Entertainment
Theme song: Dennis the Menace theme song
First episode date: September 22, 1986
Original network: Syndication (1986-1987); CBS (1988)
Theme music composer: Shuki Levy; Haim Saban
Memorable Characters Beyond Dennis
While Dennis, with his signature cowlick and striped shirt, is undoubtedly the star, the series was rich with a cast of memorable characters. Mr. Wilson, the irascible neighbor who often bore the brunt of Dennis’s escapades, became an icon in his own right.
Their dynamic—a mix of frustration, exasperation, and underlying fondness—was central to the show’s charm. Then there were characters like Joey, Margaret, and Ruff, who each added depth, humor, and diversity to Dennis’s world. Together, they showcased the varied and rich relationships a child forms as they grow.
Impact and Influence
“Dennis the Menace,” despite being an adaptation, brought fresh charm and appeal to the animated world in the mid-1980s. It contributed to the era’s rich tapestry of cartoons that combined humor, heart, and moral lessons in easily digestible formats.
The series subtly educated its viewers about the importance of friendship, understanding, and patience. Even as Dennis often stumbled into trouble, the resolutions were heartwarming, emphasizing the values of forgiveness and love.
The Characters of “Dennis the Menace”
The colorful world of “Dennis the Menace” is brought to life not just by the titular character, but also by a vibrant cast that each brings a unique flavor to the show’s tapestry.
Here’s a deeper look into some memorable characters gracing the series.
At the heart of the show is Dennis himself – a boisterous, energetic, and incredibly curious young boy. With his iconic blond cowlick and red-striped shirt, he is the epitome of innocent mischief. While he often lands in trouble due to his unintended antics, his heart is always in the right place. He represents the boundless curiosity and energy of childhood.
Mr. George Wilson
Mr. Wilson is the foil to Dennis’s unrestrained energy. Often grumpy and looking for a quiet life, he frequently finds himself at the receiving end of Dennis’s escapades. But beneath that gruff exterior is a kind heart, and their unique bond shines through over the series. Their relationship epitomizes the generational bridge where both learn valuable lessons from each other.
Joey is Dennis’s loyal best friend. Often seen tagging along on Dennis’s adventures, Joey is a bit more cautious and sometimes serves as the voice of reason, albeit usually getting swept up in the excitement regardless. Their friendship underscores the theme of loyalty and camaraderie.
Margaret is the precocious young girl who has a not-so-secret crush on Dennis. Often seen trying to civilize him or lure him into more ‘refined’ activities, she represents the structured side of childhood, contrasting Dennis’s wild nature. Yet, their interactions, filled with comedic friction, also highlight the diverse personalities that kids come across during their formative years.
No story of Dennis would be complete without mentioning his faithful dog, Ruff. Ruff isn’t just a pet; he’s Dennis’s companion in all his adventures, often saving the day or adding an extra layer of chaos. Their bond underlines the special relationship between children and their pets.
Alice and Henry Mitchell
Dennis’s parents, Alice and Henry, serve as the calm amid the storm of Dennis’s mischief. They provide a grounded perspective, balancing discipline with understanding. Their characters shed light on the challenges and joys of parenting, especially when raising a child as spirited as Dennis.
Other Characters From Dennis the Menace
Mr. and Mrs. Wade
The parents of Margaret, Mr. and Mrs. Wade, sometimes appear in the series, especially when their home becomes one of the unintended venues for Dennis’s mischief. They are typically portrayed as more sophisticated and, like many adults in the series, often find themselves bemused or frustrated by Dennis’s antics.
Gina is another of Dennis’s friends. She is an Italian girl known for her confidence and is sometimes seen pushing back against Dennis’s more mischievous plans. As a contrast to Margaret, Gina is more tomboyish and is often more eager to join in on Dennis’s adventures.
Tommy is another close friend of Dennis, often participating in his escapades. His character complements Dennis’s energy, and their camaraderie is evident in many episodes.
A lesser-seen character but notable nonetheless, PeeBee is the show’s resident genius. He’s the go-to whenever Dennis needs something fixed or built. Though he’s often more interested in his experiments than outdoor play, he occasionally gets roped into Dennis’s schemes, leading to comically unpredictable results.
Jay is portrayed as the neighborhood bully, often at odds with Dennis and his friends. Their interactions typically revolve around Dennis outwitting Jay or the two coming to a temporary truce for a common cause.
While not as frequently featured as Mr. Wilson, Sgt. Slipper is another adult who often finds himself entangled in Dennis’s adventures. Representing law and order in their small community, he’s always on the lookout for mischief, making Dennis one of his regulars.
Dennis the Menace (1993 film)
Five-year-old Dennis Mitchell never fails to stir up trouble, especially for his retired neighbor, George Wilson. To avoid Dennis’s antics, George feigns sleep. However, Dennis, misinterpreting this as sickness, flings an aspirin into George’s mouth using a slingshot.
As his parents, Henry and Alice, prepare for work while attempting to manage Dennis’s behavior, they leave him with his buddy, Joey McDonald, at Margaret Wade’s residence. The two boys aren’t fans of Margaret. They later spruce up a deserted treehouse in the forest, just as the roaming criminal, Switchblade Sam, rolls into town.
While trying to clean up spilled paint with a vacuum in the garage, Dennis accidentally sprays some onto George’s barbecue. George tastes the residue and immediately suspects Dennis’s involvement. Later, when Henry and Alice head out, they entrust Dennis to a teenage babysitter, Polly.
Polly’s boyfriend, Mickey, comes over, and Dennis decides to play a trick on them by ringing the doorbell and hiding. An exasperated Mickey retaliates by attaching a thumbtack to the doorbell.
When George ventures into the Mitchells’ garage and ends up accidentally hitting himself with a golf ball, he tries to approach the Mitchells but ends up injuring his thumb on the tack.
Polly and Mickey mistakenly think George is the one playing pranks, and they humorously cover him with water and flour. Meanwhile, as Switchblade Sam goes on a robbery spree, Chief Bennett takes notice.
Dennis the Menace (US) comics
Hank Ketcham created, wrote, and illustrated the “Dennis the Menace” newspaper comic strip for print syndication. It first appeared in 16 newspapers on March 12, 1951, with Publishers-Hall Syndicate handling its distribution.
Ketcham’s former assistants, Marcus Hamilton (handling weekdays since 1995), Ron Ferdinand (overseeing Sundays since 1981), and Ketcham’s son, Scott Ketcham (joining the team in 2010), now create the content. King Features Syndicate, Inc. distributes it to over 1,000 newspapers across 48 countries in 19 languages. The comic typically appears as a single weekly panel and a full Sunday strip.
Due to its immense success, creators adapted the comic strip into various media forms, including live-action, animated TV shows, and theatrical and direct-to-video films.
Interestingly, a UK comic named “Dennis the Menace” debuted on the same day, although it had a cover date of March 17. These two entities are not connected, and they slightly modify their names in each other’s home regions to prevent mix-ups.
Film and Television
Several adaptations have been made of “Dennis the Menace.” CBS first aired a sitcom from 1959 to 1963 with Jay North playing Dennis, Herbert Anderson portraying Henry Mitchell (Dennis’ father), Joseph Kearns as George Wilson, and later, Gale Gordon took on the role of George’s brother, John Wilson.
Jay North, as Dennis, also made an appearance in an episode of “The Donna Reed Show” and the movie “Pepe,” both in 1960.
In 1987, a live-action “Dennis the Menace” film came out and later saw a re-release as “Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter.” 1993 brought another live-action film to theaters, with Walter Matthau playing Mr. Wilson and Mason Gamble as Dennis. Originally named “The Real Dennis the Menace,” they eventually settled on the simpler title.
The 1998 direct-to-video sequel, “Dennis the Menace Strikes Again,” starred Don Rickles as Mr. Wilson. The most recent adaptation, “A Dennis the Menace Christmas,” released on DVD on November 6, 2007.
This Warner Bros. production featured Robert Wagner as Mr. Wilson, Louise Fletcher as Mrs. Wilson, and young actor Maxwell Perry Cotton took on the iconic role of Dennis.
Dennis The Menace – Dangerous Detour
- So Long, Old Paint/Trembly Assembly/Private I
- A Visitor from Outer Space/Train That Boy/Genie Madness
- Cheer Up/Ghostblusters/The Life You Save
- Shark Treatment/Jungle Bungle/Racetrack Menace
- All The President’s Menace/The Love Rowboat/Wilson The Menace
- Fishing For Trouble/Future Fortune/Time Bomb
- Spa Blahs/Whale Of A Tale/Disaster On The Green
- Here, Kitty!/Circus Berserkus/The Monster Of Mudville Flats
- The Price Of Stardom/Space Menace/The Magic Flute
- Dennis’ Yard Sale/The Abominable Snow Menace/It Came From The Planet Dennis
- Snowman Madness/The Invisible Kid/Home Destruction
- Chitty Chitty Moon Walk/Wet ‘N Wild/Dennis At The Movies
- The Supermarket/The Big Candied Apple/The Defective Detector
- Henry The Menace/Come Fly With Me/Camping Out
- Up Up and Away (From Here)/Going Ape/Dennis The Pirate
- It’s A Ruff Life/Professor Myron Mentalapse/Dennis Race 2000
- A Better Mousetrap/The Wizzer Of Odd/Canine Car Wash
- Ride’Em Cowboy/Tenting Tonight (Cartoon)/A Hair Raising Tale
- Medieval Evil/Beaver-Mania/Say Uncle
- Hopping Mad/Mayan Mayhem/The Big Power Trip
- Strong Medicine/Gold Strike/Lights! Camera! Mud!
- Invasion Of The Blob/Wild West Show-Down/The Hen Party
- Up Up and Oh Boy!/The Company Picnic/Aw Nuts!
- Clip-Joint Capers/Tanks For The Memory/Second Honeymoon
- A Couple Of Coo-Coos/The Cloneheads/Nothing But The Tooth
- Mummy’s Little Boy/Horsing Around/Dennis Plasters Pamplona
- Dennis Predicts/Dennis & The Kangaroo Cavalry/Meatball Mess
- My Fair Dennis/A Good Knight’s Work/Life In The Fast Lane
- A Nightmare At The Opera/A Royal Pain/Having A Marbleous Time
- Marky The Menace/Dennis The Genius/A Step Ahead
- The Boss Gets Scalped/Mr. Dennistein/Lean Green Jumping Machine
- Laundry Business/Journey To The Center Of Uncle Charlie’s Farm/Dennis Springs Into Action
- Ruff’s Hat Trick/A Moving Experience/Lemon-Aid
- Sounds In The Night/Dennis Does Hollywood/Ruff To The Rescue
- The Bicycle Thief/Menace Of The Mine Shaft/Margaret’s Birthday Party
- So Sorry!/Shock Therapy/Yard Wars
- Ruff’s Masterpiece/Going To The Dogs/Big Baby
- Building A Better Dog House/Dennis and The Dragon/Hic!
- Strike Up The Band/Queen Of Chinatown/Tale Of A Tux
- Give A Little Whistle/Charmed I’m Sure/After Hours
- Baseball’s Best Ballplayer/Mr. Wilson’s Diet/The Backyard Band
- Double Dennis/Timber Wolves/Help Not Wanted
- Million Dollar Dennis/3-D and Me/Barber Shop Disharmony
- Bowling For Dennis/Dennis Conquers The Navy/The Longest Half-Yard
- Vampire Scare/Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Dennis/Wilson For Mayor
- Dangerous Detour/The Prodigy/The Chimp
- High Steel/Bicycle Mania/Little Dogs Lost
- Dennis Destroys Dallas/Black & Blue Hawaii/Oil’s Well That Ends Well
- Door To Door Bore/Dennis In Venice/Young Sherlock Dennis
- Surf’s Up/Yo Ho Ho/The Karate Kiddie
- Dennis and The Deep/K-9 Kollege/Housepests
- Animalympics/No Bones About It/Dennis Takes The Cake
- Quiet Riot/The Magic Pen/A Feeling For Stealing
- Househusband Henry/Wheeling & Double-Dealing/Stop That Car!
- Lights, Camera, Auction!/Boy Ahoy/Faulty Alarm
- Hail To The Chief/Dennis In Microchipland/Handy Dandy Dennis
- Dennis The Businessman/Soccer It To Me, Dennis/Camp Over Here-Over There
- Hullaballoo At The Harmony Homes/Phantom Of The Wax Museum/Dennis and The Gypsy Woman
- Attack Of The Giant Tomatoes/The Dinosaur Doozy/Funhouse Grouch
- Dennis Rocks Out/Deserted With Dennis/Fashionable Menace
- Back To The Drawing Board/Part-Time Helper/G.I. George
- Wanted: Scarface Wilson/Ruff Come Home/10-4 Dennis
- Heroes Unwelcome/The Martians Are Coming/Ancient Olympics
- Pool Haul/Fool For Gold/Nothin’ To Be Afraid Of
- Yankee Doodle Dennis/Dennis The Barnstormer/Trial and Error
Season Two (1988)
- Space Race
- The Incredible Shrinking Dennis
- Crummy Mummy
- Swiss Family Mitchell
- Pie in the Eye
- Instant Replay
- Underwater Wonderland
- Safe at Home
- It’s Magic Time
- Dennis in Wonderland
- Water on the Brain
- The Great Pie Swap
- Climb of the Century
- Little Beauty Shop of Horrors
- Tunnel Vision
- Super Duper Dennis
- Ice Show Show-Off
- Young At Heart
- A Word From Our Sponsor
- A Froggy Day
- Loch Ness Mess
- Box Office Smash
- Menaced Marriage
- Dennis of the Yukon
- Seal of Approval
- A Fox Tale
- Gorilla Warfare
- Shared Interest
- Kooked Goose
- Pell Mell Hotel
- The Old Ball Game
- The Wright Stuff
- Hassle in the Castle
- Wilson’s Night Out
Multiple Animated Versions: While many remember the 1986 animated series produced by DIC Animation City, there have been other versions. Before the ’86 series, there was a short-lived 1981 cartoon produced by Ruby-Spears and another in 1993 titled “All-New Dennis the Menace.”
Voice Talent: The 1986 animated series featured the voice talents of several recognizable actors. For instance, Phil Hartman, known for his roles on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons,” voiced both George Wilson and Henry Mitchell.
Episodic Structure: The episodes of the 1986 series typically contained three separate segments, each about six or seven minutes in length.
Character Variations: While the animated series retained many characters from the original comic strip, some had more prominent roles, and a few were original creations specific to the show.
Sponsorship: The show had a prominent sponsor in the form of General Mills, a major American food company. They’re also credited as the show’s copyright owner.
Homages and Parodies: Over the years, numerous other shows and mediums have referenced or parodied the “Dennis the Menace” animated series, highlighting its impact on pop culture.
Theme Song: The animated series had a catchy theme song that many fans still remember. The opening sequences showcased Dennis’s misadventures, setting the tone for the episodes.
Evolution of Characters: While characters like Mr. Wilson maintained their core characteristics from the comics (like being often irritated by Dennis), the animated series allowed for further development, giving audiences a deeper look into their personalities and relationships.