I’ve always wondered if there are more projects in Hollywood that get shelved than those that don’t. I don’t mean pilot films; I’m talking about stuff that makes it to a certain point in production and is stopped indefinitely.
It certainly happened in animation. I’m not going to give a shopping list of concepts here, but suffice it to say Disney had some feature ideas on a burner that got turned off; the Gremlin one comes to mind immediately.
The same thing happened at Hanna-Barbera. Disney’s aborted cartoons (and even Jay Ward’s, thanks to Keith Scott’s book) are well-documented. Hanna-Barbera’s may not be, though newspaper stories reveal a couple of things the studio was working on that somehow disappeared.
One of the Associated Press’ TV-movie columnists referred to one project in this story, dated June 21, 1963. It’s a pretty typical puff piece that was done about then. It seems Joe or Bill always went out of their way to make sure there was a reference Tom and Jerry in every interview (preferably playing the irony angle about their firing by MGM) and that they were making piles of money through world-wide marketing. Buried in the puff piece is word about a feature that never was.
Hanna, Barbera Went Far In Six Years
By BOB THOMAS
HOLLYWOOD (AP)—The house that a hound built now rises in modern splendor over the historic Cahuenga Pass, gateway to Hollywood.
Of course, Huckleberry Hound wasn’t the only one who built the new home of Hanna-Barbera Productions. He got help from the Flintstones, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, Top Cat, Quick Draw McGraw, Touche Turtle, Wally Gator, Lippy Lion and Loopy De Loop.
Quite a crew of house builders. And the saga of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera is quite a success story. Just six years ago they started in business with a writer, animator and cameraman.
Today, 250 people labor in the new Hanna-Barbara plant, the most modern cartoon factory in the World. So far the company has turned out 160 cartoon shorts for television and theatres. Coming up: “Whistle Your Way Back Home.” An animation feature starring the stalwart hound, Huck.
Hanna and Barbera, both 20 year veterans of “Tom and Jerry” at MGM, have had many surprises with their success. Not the least has been the boom of the merchandizing end of their enterprise.
“We never realized how much money there was to be found in character products,” said Hanna in his luxurious new office (his and Barbera’s are separate and equal). “When we were at MGM, we never did much about merchandizing tieups. There were too many executives and lawyers to go through.”
That aspect was not neglected when they went independent. Now their characters adorn products in 44 countries; that’s how far the cartoons are circulated.
“In this country alone, we have 480 licensees who manufacture 2,000 different items,” said Hanna. They include pajamas, rattles, booties, ties, jewelry, comic books, all kinds of toys, wading pools, lamps, bubble bath, etc.
Seven million Huckleberry Hound shoes have been made in Japan. Rugs are made in Belgium. There is a soda pop in Sweden called Flinta, after the Flintstones. We sold a million copies of the Pebbles dollars at $5 a copy.”
What does all this return to Hanna-Barbera?
“Our license fee is five percent of the wholesale price,” said Hanna. “We figure a gross of $50 million in merchandizing this year so that will mean a return of $2 ¼ million. And that is almost pure profit. Except for a little art work, we contribute nothing but the name.
“Merchandizing is already about 25 per cent of the gross profit.”
“Whistle Your Way Back Home” found itself in the soundtrack of a different feature that seems to have taken its place—Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear (1964).
Then, there’s this item in Dick Kleiner’s syndicated column, dated June 30, 1964:
Hanna-Barbera, the geniuses of animated cartoons, are going to try making feature films with live actors next.
Joe Barbara says they’ll either start in the fall with either “Father Was a Robot” or “Mr. Mysterious,” two properties they own and have been working on.
“We’re going to use a storyboard technique,” Barbera says, “just as we do on the cartoons.”
Shooting on “Father was a Robot” was supposed to start in October 1964. Then plans changed. Broadcasting Magazine, in 1965, revealed it was going to be a TV show for the 1966-67 season and developed by Bernard Fain and Al Ruddy, who created Hogan’s Heroes. The second proposed movie was based on the first book by Sid Fleischman, published in 1962. You can read about it here. It sounds like it would make a nice animated feature, even today.
But, in reading a short note in Boxoffice’s edition of May 15, 1965, you’d never know either of those films were ever planned.
Hanna Barbera’s First
HOLLYWOOD—“The Green Goose” will be the first in a series of live-action films by Hanna-Barbera, starting in the first week of August, according to president Joe Barbera. The script is being prepared and casting is underway.
Boxoffice had reported as far back as May 21, 1962 that H-B was going into the live-action business just as soon as its new studio was built.
I don’t know anything more about The Green Goose, other than it’d make a nice name for a pub across from an animation studio.
In a way, I’m glad the Huck cartoon never got made. I’m not entirely convinced Huck could carry a whole feature and still make it feel like a Huckleberry Hound cartoon. Unlike Yogi, who already had a clearly-delineated adversary, conscience and setting that could be built upon, Huck had himself. And that was about it. A whole world would have had to have been created around him to sustain a feature. Huck’s personality would have to be developed beyond that of a pummelled relaxed guy who makes one-liners about what’s just happened to him. What may have emerged as a feature could likely have been much different than what attracted people to Huck’s low-key character in the first place and thus be panned by the audience. Still, it would be interesting to see what kind of story concept was being bandied about and how far the proposal got.