Saturday, 13 July 2019

The Voice Man We All Loved

For a while, it seems like it was impossible to turn on a television set on any given day and not hear Daws Butler. Even in the pre-home video, pre-specialised cable channel days, Hanna-Barbera or Warner Bros. or Jay Ward cartoons were on the air somewhere. Of course, you’d only hear Daws. You wouldn’t see him.

Daws seems to have shied away from being on-camera. In the ‘50s, he appeared on rare occasion on Pantomime Quiz. That was during a time when anybody on radio was expected to make the transition to television. But 40 years ago, he consented to go in front of the camera.

Here’s an unbylined blurb from the Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter of October 12, 1979. This had to be written from some kind of news release because I’ve found Daws’ quote at the end in no fewer than three newspaper stories in three different years. I didn’t see this special so I can’t tell you if it was any good, but I’ve always cringed when TV stars never associated with animated cartoons suddenly pop up as a “host.” “What are they doing there?” I’d always ask myself. After all, would Walt Disney emcee a retrospective on My Favorite Martian?

He's the voice behind Yogi Bear
Huckleberry Hound can't say a word, Yogi Bear is speechless, Quick Draw McGraw has absolutely nothing to say, and Augie Doggie is mute unless Daws Butler is around.
The shy, diminutive 5'2" Butler is a little man with a very big voice, indeed. It is Daws Butler's voice, personality, comedic sense and innate acting ability that has enlivened the popular animated characters of Yogi and his cartoon cohorts, as well as such pen-and-ink performers as Blabber Mouse, Peter Potamus, Super Snoop and Cap 'n Crunch, plus scores of others.
For more than 20 years since William Hanna and Joseph Barbera founded Hanna-Barbera, their highly successful animated production company, Daws Butler has been widely heard but seldom seen in his special world of artistic fantasy. He makes a rare on-camera appearance when he joins host Bill Bixby in a behind-the-scenes visit to the Hanna-Barbera cartoon kingdom on "Yabba Dabba Doo 2," live-action and animated special to be broadcasted Friday on the CBS Television Network.
Being known only as a voice, throughout a professional career that has spanned nearly four decades in radio and in motion pictures and television animation, could cause an ego problem for most performers, but Butler is philosophic about his lack of visibility.
"I've always considered myself a complete actor, he says. "I become the character in expression, gesture and physical action when I am supplying the voices."
Daws was quoted further in a 1982 piece promoting Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper:
In the early stages of development of cartoon personalities, Butler works closely with the animators, who incorporate his facial features into their drawings. Butler creates characterizations; the artists translate them into pictures.
"There was a time in my early career," Butler admits, "when I resented the prospect of going through life known only as Yogi Bear. I got over the resentment long ago. After all, Yogi is still a star, long after hundreds of others have faded away.
"And he needs me," adds the actor. “To Yogi Bear, at least, I am indispensable. That's a nice feeling.”
The Daws Butler PR Machine was pretty busy 40 years ago. Here’s another story about him, again unbylined, published in several newspapers starting around October 21, 1979. I like how Daws did the voice of a Ford on a show sponsored by Chrysler.
Daws Butler Is A Man Of A Hundred Voices
HOLLYWOOD—Chicago couldn't always tell the difference between Daws Butler and the engine of a cold Model T.
That unique confusion pushed Butler into a 40-year career that has seen the diminutive character actor give voice to some of the most famous cartoon creatures in the world of animation, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, and Huckleberry Hound. His vocal artistry will again be on display when he "speaks for" Raggedy Andy in the upcoming animated Halloween special, "Raggedy Ann & Andy in the Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile," Wednesday, Oct. 31 on the CBS Television Network.
A shy youngster who was ill at ease in large groups, Butler took public-speaking lessons to buoy his self-confidence and "graduated" to doing impressions (from his own written material) in amateur contests around his native Chicago. In spite of a repertoire that was limited to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rudy Vallee and the aforementioned Model T, he began to win some prizes and a modest following. Then, he formed an act with two other amateur contest veterans. As The Three Short Waves, they specialized in impressions of radio personalities and movie greats.
Butler served in the U.S. Naval Reserve intelligence branch for four years during World War II and then brought his family to Hollywood, where he broke into radio, working as a dramatic actor and capitalizing on his versatility at "doubling" a variety of voices.
In 1948, Butler starred with Stan Freberg in the West Coast's first television puppet show, the multi-Emmy winning "Time for Beany." Also with Freberg, he co-wrote and co-voiced comedy records, including "St. George and the Dragonet," the first comedy recording to sell more than one million copies. Butler's voice has been "behind" hundreds of radio and animated television commercials, and he created the vocal characters for many world-famous stars out of the animation production houses of Hanna-Barbera, Jay Ward and other companies.
Butler conducts an actor's workshop in his home and at several adult schools in the Los Angeles area, sharing his expertise on acting, in general, and the special art of dialect and voice characterization, in particular.
There was more of Daws on television that year. Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear was broadcast on a number of stations. And there was Daws on the radio, too. He and other fine actors were hired for Sears Radio Theatre, a series evoking memories of drama on the old networks. Unfortunately, the old networks had affiliates which broadcast these kinds of shows. Sears couldn’t clear enough air time to make the show profitable.

It’s impossible for me to put in words how much I’ve admired and enjoyed Daws’ work over the years. He finally got the tribute he deserved in the documentary Daws Butler: Voice Magician which you should be able to watch below.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Flintstones Weekend Comics, July 1970

Dino gets a showcase in the comics this month 49 years ago. Three of the four comics are house-bound, the last moves to the golf course.

We’ve mentioned before that Mr. Slate was not Fred’s boss in the comics for reasons, I suppose, have been lost to time.

Barney and Betty get the month off.

Three of the comics have the same Flintstones logo, while the fourth has the name hanging down on a sign.

July 5, 1970.

July 12, 1970.

July 19, 1970.

July 26, 1970.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

More Costly Than Dobie Gillis

“Adult cartoon” was a sales pitch bandied about in 1960 as The Flintstones was about to debut. And it only made sense.

Animated cartoons were something found in kiddie matinees at theatres and on children’s shows on daytime TV. If you want to broaden your demographic, then you’d better say your cartoon series isn’t just for the youngsters.

Granted, The Flintstones featured a plot about having a baby and made gentle fun of suburban living. But it wasn’t over the heads of kid viewers, any more than old Warner cartoons about Bugs dressing as a woman to fool Elmer Fudd. They flocked to the show. And it’s the kids of the 1960s that still fondly remember the series today.
Reviews after the first show were mixed. You’ll recall the “inked disaster” quote from the New York Times and (legitimate) complaints about the superfluous sitcom laugh track. However, the Pittsburgh Press liked the show and looked past the debut to the second show, noting kids had already decided it was something they wanted to watch. This appeared in the edition of October 7, 1960.

'Flintstones': TV's Costliest Half Hour
$65,000 Per Week

If any of the season's new TV shows can be called a sure-fire success on the basis of only one exposure, it would be "The Flintstones."
It made its first appearance last Friday night. It appears to have been widely viewed and favorably talked about by the people who make or break most TV offerings, the young. When a show wins acceptance among the youngsters, it's in.
We'll be getting our second look at this "adult cartoon series" tonight (Channels 4 and 10, 8:30) so here's a little background on it:
There is a general belief that a cartoon show is cheaper to produce than one with live actors. This is not so. "The Flintstones" is the most expensive regularly scheduled half hour show ever offered on television. The ABC network pays the Hanna Barbera Enterprises $65,000 for each "Flintstones" episode.
This is in contrast to the $36,000-$39,000 per half hour for films such as "Dobie Gillis," "Alcoa Presents," and "The Tom Ewell Show." Half-hours with big name stars like "General Electric Theater" and "My Three Sons" run around $50,000, where "Leave It To Beaver" comes in for $30,000.
"The Flintstones" is the latest cartoon series of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, whose "Huckleberry Hound" won an Emmy this year. They also created "Tom and Jerry," "Ruff and Ready" [sic] and "Quick Draw McGraw." They are veterans of 20 years at MGM, which tried unsuccessfully to match Walt Disney's success with animated motion pictures. MGM ultimately threw in the sponge, and Hanna and Barbera struck out on their own.
They presently employ 150 people, many of them former associates from the MGM animation studios.
"It is said we are doing for television what Disney did for pictures," Joe Barbera said one day recently. "Disney started a family of cartoon characters, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, who became almost national institutions."
Hanna and Barbera plan to pull Yogi Bear out of the "Huckleberry Hound" cartoon and develop a series with him as its central character. They also have in the works a 75-minute animated feature for theaters starring Yogi.
They see "The Flintstones" as a more adult show than their previous creations.
"We feel the sight is for kids and the sound is for adults," Joe explained. "We were a year casting this show, only instead of interviewing live people, we interviewed drawings."
Joe is a lean man with curly dark hair and flashing white teeth. He is handsomer than most leading men and looks about 27. Then he knocks you off your chair by referring casually to his grandchildren.
"I married young," he explains.
Among the people providing voices for the Hanna-Barbera animations are Mel Blanc, who has been the voice of Woody Woodpecker, Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, and Daws Butler. Daws' salary and bonuses from Hanna-Barbera last year totaled $80,000.
Hanna and Barbera have greatly streamlined the animation process brought to such brilliant perfection by Walt Disney. So painstaking is Disney that for his big hits like "Snow White" and "Cinderella" he has had live actors and actresses play the parts, then translated the films to animation.
A "Flintstones" episode represents around 8000 individual drawings for the half hour of film. A Disney half hour would use at least 17,000 drawings, to achieve the marvelously graceful movements of characters, or of leaves turning gently in the breeze that are the Disney trademarks.
This is why Disney cartoons have to go into theaters before they come to TV. No sponsor could handle their original cost.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, July 1970

We don’t generally see too many other bears in Jellystone Park. Boo Boo, yes. Maybe the occasional rival for Yogi. (My favourite is the hammy bears at the start of the animated “Be My Guest Pest” in the first season of the Huck show). But we get a couple of comics with bear extras in the month of July 1970.

I’m really believin’ Yogi gets even. Okay, Yogi doesn’t have one of those hokey rhymes in the July 5th comic, but Yogi gets his revenge on a practical joker. Cigars? Firecrackers? Great things to have in a national park, Chuck.

Yogi’s French is très magnifique in the July 12th comic, which has a nice punch-line. His French is better than when he caused an international incident of “fillet mignonnies” in “A Bear Pair,” Warren Foster’s light satire on diplomacy. Incidental character bears are chowing down on unidentified berries in this comic.

“Refrig”?! Who says “refrig”? Yogi does in the July 19th comic. Anyway, the Baydos only have themselves to blame for Yogi snipping out parts of the carpet. If they had told him where the diapers were, it wouldn’t have happened. I like the silhouette panel with the fox trotting along on all fours.

More bears chowing down on berries in the July 26th comic. Except Yogi, naturally, which is the punchline here. Excellent perspective on the final panel.

Click on any of the comics to make them bigger.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Mugging and Smoking With Fred

Daring Dino? Ferocious Fred? Neither of the adjectives in front of those cartoon characters’ names seems all that appropriate. But who can argue with paying 75 cents for a mug with their mug on it?

In a way, a mug is appropriate. The original Flintstones cartoons were sponsored, for a time, by Welch’s Grape Juice, through the Manoff Advertising Agency. That happened starting in the 1962-63 season.

The series had a bunch of new sponsors for its fourth season (1963-64). Green Giant (Leo Burnett) and Best Foods (Lennen and Newell) also picked up sponsorship that year. Broadcasting magazine estimated the cost of production at $55,000 an episode, the same as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Donna Reed Show and Hazel. In 1964-65, the Jolly Green Giant took his ho-ho-ho elsewhere and was replaced by Motorola (also a Leo Burnett client).

The show began its life with the bills being paid by Miles Laboratories and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Miles was the maker of Flintstones vitamins, but that product wasn’t hawked in breaks on the cartoon show; it wasn’t invented until 1969 (the series ended in 1966).

These ceramic Flintstones ashtrays from the early ‘60s must have seemed appropriate for a show sponsored by a cigarette maker.

The fact that Winston cigarettes were pushed in between acts of The Flintstones is met with a combination of shock and disbelief today by people who weren’t around in the days when smoking was cool, not deadly. They can’t understand why cartoon characters were allowed to sell cigarettes. The reasons are simple.

a) The Flintstones was not a children’s show.
b) Cigarette advertising had a long history in magazines and on network radio.

Jack Benny sold cigarettes; his TV show had (for a while) a cute cartoon character named Happy Joe Lucky. Lucy and Desi sold them on TV, too. Arthur Godfrey sold them on radio. So did Abbott and Costello. Cigarette ads were ubiquitous. They were on all kinds of shows aimed at families. No one thought anything about it. I suspect something we do today will be looked upon as ghastly and unthinkable a few generations from now.

R.J. Reynolds bowed out after two seasons. ABC decided to sell participations in the show for year three, according to Sponsor of June 4, 1962. By September the network had signed contracts with five different advertisers, including Welch’s.

Interestingly, Miles Labs exercised its sponsor authority on the content of The Flintstones. Sponsor magazine of June 17, 1963 reported that “ABC network agrees it’s usual practice for Miles Lab to insist that The Flintstones contain no reference to ‘headache, upset stomach or the taking of remedies to relieve same.’” By this time, Winston’s had moved on to being advertised on TV for the first time in colour—by some animated matchbooks.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Hanna-Barbera is Ready (and Reddy)

Hanna-Barbera might not have become a huge cartoon empire if Sam Singer had been competent.

Back in the ‘50s, unlike some of the other movie studios, Columbia Pictures wasn’t afraid of television grabbing its audience from theatres. It saw large dollar signs instead. Columbia revived its Screen Gems name and pasted it onto a TV distribution subsidiary.

In 1956, the studio had shows like Jungle Jim, The Patti Page Show and Celebrity Playhouse on the air, but no doubt the studio saw the huge windfall the AAP cartoon packages were netting in syndication, and wanted a piece of the animation action.

That’s where Singer comes in.

His Tempi-Toons Company came up with a cartoon series made especially for television called “Pow Wow the Indian Boy.” In January 1957, a deal was struck for Screen Gems to distribute them to stations in 11 western American states. The problem was, as Joe Barbera recalled, the Pow Wow cartoons “looked like hell.” Screen Gems wasn’t happy with it.

Columbia had a theatrical distribution deal with UPA. Why not distribute UPA TV cartoons, too? Screen Gems officials had a look in March at a pilot film for Danny Day of the Knights, which UPA proposed as a one-a-day cliff-hanger serial for television aired over 26 weeks. The company wasn’t happy with that, either.

In the meantime, MGM was about to close its cartoon department and some of Barbera’s staff were working on a concept called Ruff and Reddy with the idea of selling it to TV. Barbera and Bill Hanna set up H-B Enterprises in July and began shopping around the dog and cat adventure serial. Their partner, George Sidney, head of the Motion Pictures Directors Association, got them an appointment at Screen Gems. Despite some opposition from Columbia boss Harry Cohn (Barbera recalled he thought a pencil test was a finished cartoon), the two companies inked a deal and Ruff and Reddy debuted on NBC on Saturday morning, December 14, 1957.

From that humble beginning emerged the TV cartoon powerhouse of Hanna-Barbera.

Saturday morning TV, in 1957, was a dumping ground. It was filled with old theatrical cartoons and filmed live action reruns aimed at kids. It’s a wonder Ruff and Reddy got noticed. However, syndicated columnist Stephen Scheuer found the show and wrote about it not too many weeks after it debuted. We’ve found another column about the show from the Tampa Bay Times of January 5, 1958. There’s no mention of Hanna or Barbera, or Screen Gems, and no byline, so I presume the copy was messaged from an NBC news release.

Big Cheeses In Cartoonland
THEY used to say it was impossible to produce cartoons for TV. It was too expensive and it took too long. But TV has done the impossible again.
"Ruff and Reddy," a new cartoon program produced specifically for TV, has started on WFLA-TV (NBC) 10:30 a.m., Saturdays. The highlight of the half-hour snow is the "Ruff and Reddy" four-minute serial made in the cliff-hanger style. In the first 13 episodes (NBC will play two per program) the two heroes, cunning cat end a drowsy dog, are kidnapped by a flying saucer and taken to the planet of Muni-Mula (spell it backwards).
ONLY A HANDFUL of cartoon characters have ever created specially for TV. Ruff and Reddy follow the short trail of Crusader Rabbit, Tom Terrific, Pow Wow and Bert and Harry. The last pair, of course, was created for commercials rather than programs. And, as a matter of fact, the high cost of animation has mainly confined new TV cartoon production to commercials.
There are now almost 3,000 cartoons playing on TV stations, virtually all of them produced originally for theatres. About 900 of them were produced in the silent era and had music and sound effects added for TV airings.
There's a popular impression that the animated cartoon originated from the pen of Walt Disney back around 1930. The fact is that cartoons were already being shown in theatres when Walt was a kid. Animators such as Bray, Van Buren, Max Fleischer and Paul Terry were turning our [out] cartoons before 1920.
True, when Disney created Mickey, the mouse became the big cheese of cartoonland. During World War II, the cartoon's instructional genius was developed to the full for the armed forces training films.
After the War, new and streamlined animation systems were perfected by UPA and other cartoonists. It's these new techniques that make possible new cartoon production for TV.
LAST SPRING production plans were announced for about half a dozen new cartoon programs, but the only one to reach the light of the TV screen this season is "Ruff and Reddy," which is thus, if not rough, unquestionably ready, as well as being right up to the minute with its household pets taking off for outer space.
A year later, Hanna-Barbera was at it with a far more ambitious series, the half-hour Huckleberry Hound Show, which was boosted by loving critics and put the studio on a path to expansion.

Someone will mention it if I don’t, but Sam Singer went on to produce Sinbad, Jr. cartoons for American International Television. Something apparently went haywire, as Hanna-Barbera was hired to finish up the series (even the most untrained eye and ear should notice the different between each studio’s work).

Ruff and Reddy had two shots on the NBC schedule, ending in fall 1964, before the individual cartoons went into syndication (the network show included a human host and an old Columbia theatrical cartoon). We’ve found listings for R&R into 1973.

I’m afraid I’m not a fan of the series. Ruff and Reddy’s target audience was clearly pre-teen, with the cartoons written to wrap up the young viewer in the adventure. Hanna-Barbera’s syndicated series of the ’50s were out-and-out comedies and aimed at everyone. They strike me as more mature. Still, R&R has some good background art by Fernando Montealegre, the Capitol Hi-Q Library is used well, and you get to hear Don Messick and Daws Butler at work. And the Hanna-Barbera studio may never have gotten off the ground without it. With a little indirect help from Sam Singer.