‘Bonanza’: Why the Actors Started Dressing Like Cartoons

Whenever animators create cartoons, they usually ensure that the animations maintain one form of clothing throughout the show. Some animated shows such as Family Guy sometimes change their character’s outfits every once in a while.

Consistent dressing in cartoons is meant to make the characters recognizable. In real life TV shows, these rules don’t apply except for Bonanza.

The western TV show adopted cartoon-like dressing for an excellent reason. Find out why the characters in Bonanza wore the same outfits.

‘Bonanza’ almost didn’t make it past the first season

RELATED: ‘Bonanza’ Almost Didn’t Survive Its First Season

The western show debuted in 1959 and enjoyed a successful 14-season run and a massive audience. When Bonanza aired, audiences immediately took to it, becoming the longest-running western show on NBC.

The show centered around the Cartwright family, including Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene and his three sons, Adam, Eric “Hoss,” and Little Joe.

The show launched the career of Little House On The Prairie actor Michael Landon who played the fan-favorite character, Little Joe. When Dan Blocker, who played Hoss, died, the producers decided to address his death, making it the first popular show to note a character’s passing.

Blocker died at the age of 43 after complications from gallbladder surgery. When he died, Greene confided in his wife that he knew the show would end since Blocker had held the series.

Although Bonanza lasted for 14 seasons and attracted a large viewership, it almost didn’t make it past the first season. The show faced off against the legal drama Perry Mason. Perry Mason was doing well, and it pushed Bonanza out of the spotlight.

In the show’s first season, Bonanza was nowhere to be seen in the top 30 shows in 1959-1960. However, the network decided to keep going with the show because it was the first to be shown in color. The show’s rating skyrocketed after NBC changed Bonanza’s time slot.

The show’s cast and crew didn’t see the cancellation coming

Members of the cast of the TV western series 'Bonanza'
Members of the cast of the TV western series ‘Bonanza’ | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Bonanza’: Why Was Hoss Killed Off?

Bonanza survived being overshadowed by Perry Mason in its first year to become the longest-running western on NBC. However, even the high ratings and great reception toward the show weren’t enough to keep it on air after its 14th season.

When Blocker died, a script was already in place, and his death threw everything into disarray. The earlier script would have started with a two-hour special written by Landon.

The plot line would have followed Hoss’ wife’s murder, but Blocker died before they began filming. The crew had to rewrite what they’d already written. Therefore when the show got suddenly canceled, the cast and crew didn’t get enough time to write a proper ending.

The Los Angeles Times reported that NBC had sent someone to inform the cast and crew of Bonanza that their show had gotten axed.

Bonanza stopped filming two days after the cancellation announcement was made. Greene expressed his regrets over the cancellation, saying, “if we had known this was coming, we would have gone out with a bang and not a whimper.”

Why did the characters wear the same outfits?

RELATED: ‘Bonanza’: Michael Landon ‘Broke Down’ After His Co-Star’s Tragic Death

Cartoons wear the same outfits to save time and ensure that the animators don’t spend a lot of time thinking about dressing the characters every time. It also makes the characters stand out and easy to recognize.

Anyone who keenly watched Bonanza would note that the characters don’t change their outfits from episode to episode. It turns out that the showrunners found it best for standardization reasons.

MeTV reports that the Cartwrights wore the same outfit to make it easier to reuse footage for action sequences and duplicate costumes for stunt doubles.

[Correction: An earlier version had an incorrect name for Dan Blocker.]