Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mr. Barbera, When’s My Birthday?

Can you imagine living your life not knowing when your birthday is? You can’t plan a party. You don’t know if gifts will ever come your way.

That’s the burden of Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har.

Oh, dear, oh, my.

Before Hanna-Barbera launched its takeover of Saturday mornings, the debut of the each of the studio’s shows can be traced to a single date. ‘Ruff and Reddy’ (December 14, 1957), ‘The Flintstones’ (September 30, 1960), ‘Top Cat’ (September 27, 1961) and ‘The Jetsons’ (September 23, 1962) all appeared on network TV so specific broadcast days and times were fixed. ‘Huckleberry Hound’ (September 29, 1958), ‘Quick Draw McGraw’ (September 28, 1959) and ‘Yogi Bear’ (January 30, 1961) were all in syndication, meaning they ran on different days in different cities, but Kellogg’s purchased the air time and ensured each debut was on the same week. So their birthdays date from the Monday of their debut week.

But the studio came up with another concept for syndication—three different series of five-minute cartoons that stations could pick up and broadcast as they saw fit. The umbrella name that H-B used to sell them was apparently ‘The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series’ but it wasn’t really a cartoon show at all, let alone one with an official name. Unlike the studio’s other syndicated offerings, the three shorts weren’t all contained in a half hour with an opening and closing and a star character. A station could drop individual cartoons into its children’s programming any time during the day, as many or as few as it wanted, or run them as a generic show. There was no sponsorship tie-in to ensure a uniform debut across the continent. So that’s why there’s no birthday for Lippy or Hardy, or the other cartoons in the package—Touché Turtle and Wally Gator.

To add to the confusion, stations that did run them as a show couldn’t figure out what to name it. TV listings in some cities refer to Wally. Others only mention Lippy. Still others advertise Touché.

So when did they first air? The San Antonio Express of February 9, 1962 reveals in a blurb in the TV section:

The production team of Hanna Barbera whose “Flintstones” animated series is seen on ABC-TV, are now offering three five-minute each cartoons for showing on local TV stations via syndication. There are 52 episodes each of “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy the Lion” and “Wally Gator,” all in color.

Next comes a bylined syndicated newspaper story, this version from the The Hayward Daily Review of March 18, 1962, implying the cartoons were already on the air. It features yet another version of the Two-Poor-Guys-Who-Made-Good-After-MGM-Fired-Us story that seems to be little more than a rewrite of giddy, glowing prose flowing out of Arnie Carr’s studio PR department.

‘Flintstone’ Fellas
Hanna, Barbara Smash
By Hank Grant
HOLLYWOOD — For 20 years, two young lads by the names of William Hanna and Joe Barbera had toiled happily in M-G-M Studios, turning out over 125 of their “Tom and Jerry” theatrical cartoons. They felt most secure in their jobs, and why not? Their animated efforts had earned millions of dollars for the company and a record number of industry and public honors, including several Academy Awards.
Then came a phone call from the front office to inform the stunned pair they were being released. Demon television was responsible. Realizing that what theaters wanted less of television would undoubtedly want more of, the pair tried to urge the studio to keep them on and start turning out animated cartoons for home-viewer consumption.
Luckily for the two disheartened lads, the studio wanted no part of television at that time, so they went into business for themselves. Let us see what has happened in the five years since they thought their world had come to an end.
Less than four weeks after their discharge from M-G-M, the pair took a deep breath and, with their fingers crossed, launched Hanna-Barbera Productions with a “Huckleberry Hound” character, who was to prove for them what Mickey Mouse did for Walt Disney.
“Huck” caught on so fast, another half-hour animated series, “Quick Draw McGraw,” was quickly snapped up for the syndicated TV market.
Then, their most ambitious undertaking, the first cartoon series on a first -run weekly series in network class A primetime, “The Flintstones.” When it was announced that ABC had signed the deal for a production cost of some $80,000 per half hour (as opposed to $50,000 for live action shows), Hollywood wise men laughed into their martinis, predicting not only a short run for the experiment, but a huge financial loss.
Flintstones not only started off strongly, hut consistently topped all opposition, as today it continues to do so against “Royte 66” and “Detectives,” the latter, though expanded this season to hour length, bring cancelled for next season by NBC because Flintstones relegated it to a cellar third position in the ratings race.
Their second prime-time effort, “Top Cat,” which even the network was preparing to write off because of a slow start, is now topping “Checkmate” for audience supremacy. Their third syndicates series, “Yogi Bear,” is firmly established, in fact, all three syndicated series — “Huck,” “McGraw” and “Yogi” — never fail to make the top ten listing in every market today.
Thus, Hanna-Barbera has become a multi-million-dollar enterprise, without a single failure to its credit, and has the distinction of turning out more animated cartoon footage every week than any other studio in the world. Ever-expanding, the team has launched a rash of five-minute animated series — “Lippy the Lion,” “Touche Turtle” and “Wally Gator” — which are being snapped up so quickly in syndicated TV markets that the Screen Gems releasing organization has doubled its original order of 52 shows each!
Less than two years ago, Hanna-Barbera built their new studios in North Hollywood. The building is already too small to accommodate its ever-growing staff, which already numbers over 150 creative people. This month, the company will break ground for construction of larger quarters.
“This will be twice the size our old building,” says Joe Barbera, proudly, “a full two-story structure.”
“Maybe we should make it three stories,” Bill Hanna interjected, almost worriedly.



But a good sampling of TV listings don’t start mentioning Lippy, Touché or Wally until September; KCOP in Los Angeles started broadcasting them as part of Bill Biery’s ‘Beachcomber Bill’ show on Monday, September 3, 1962. That doesn’t mean anything; the cartoons were designed to be used in generic TV cartoon carnivals, dropped in amongst old Bugs Bunnys and Popeyes, so they could have been on the air before that. But considering TV stations didn’t start listing them with any frequency (as a separate show) until about October, it’s likely they made their debut no sooner than when KCOP put them on the air. And October was the month the new H-B merchandise hit stores; you could dress your kid as Mr. Twiddle for Hallowe’en (looking at the ad makes me wonder what channel the ‘Caper Cow’ cartoons were on).



Maddeningly, the cartoons only have titles and no credits, so one has to use educated guesses to figure out who worked on them. Hardy Har Har was a character Mike Maltese wrote in a Snooper and Blabber cartoon so it seems probable he developed the Lippy series. Wally Gator’s theme song by the sometimes indecipherable mixed chorus of the Randy Horne Singers tells us he’s a “swingin’ alligator in the swamp.” But his cartoons don’t take place in a swamp. Wally’s in a zoo. And he wasn’t much of an “operator,” either, certainly not like Top Cat or even Hokey Wolf. Either Bill Hanna wasn’t thinking carefully when he wrote the lyrics or the concept got changed. The zoo setting ensured a regular combatant for Wally, just like Yogi got tied down with Ranger Smith. And one wonders if Maltese, with his penchant for Doug Fairbanks’ swordplay, came up with Touché. Even though there are no credits, the studio made it known who was behind the stars. One newspaper story revealed the cartoons featured the voices of Bill Thompson, Alan Reed and Daws Butler, which is more than the shorts themselves did.

Despite all the talent that went into the cartoons, they’re really not much more than pleasant time-fillers. The characters don’t have the charm of Huckleberry Hound, the goofiness of Quick Draw McGraw or the oddball wordplay of Snagglepuss. They spent their time going through watered-down versions of previous Hanna-Barbera situations. The non-Kellogg’s-funded animation is more simplified from what the studio was doing on TV even in 1959; the studio obviously tried to cut corners by making the cartoons two minutes shorter than the Hucks and Yogis. The top-notch voice work carries them, and the character design has the familiar H-B Bickenbach-from-Benedict style that makes the characters seem like old friends. But they could use a bit more personality. And birthdays.

18 comments:

  1. In New York, WPUX (which had bought the earlier H-B series) aired them in a late afternoon block, IIRC, in the order of Wally, Touche and then Lippy (they would do the same thing a year later with the King Features trilogy, running them in a block that would feature Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat and Snuffy Smith in standard order). The cartoons were really the first sign of the law of diminishing returns, because while I could remember particular aspects of certain cartoons on the Huck, Quick Draw and Yogi shows 10-20-30 years down the line, there are really few memorable moments in any of these entries. The studio's main creative efforts at the time were obviously directed at their current and proposed prime-time shows, where these cartoons seemed more like a quick way to fill time and make a few $$$.

    To be fair, the cartoons don't feel as forced as, say, the network stuff H-B would be doing by 1965, but the Ed Winn, Wallace Wimple and Joe E. Brown/Happy Postman personalities Bill and Joe borrowed for their main characters just didn't produce anything really to latch onto (Magilla Gorilla wasn't all that great a character, either, but the concept, slightly better writing at the outset and Allan Melvin's voice gave that series a little more punch than The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series had.

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  2. I don't know about other markets, but by 1968 NYC didn't seem to show the Wally, Touche or Lippy cartoons either as a standalone series, in an umbrella listed in newspapers as just plain "Cartoons", or as kiddy show hosted filler. (Likewise, I never saw the similarly shorter Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello cartoons in NYC till well into the 70s.) And yet, the various Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw components chugged along reliably in syndication for decades.

    Wally Gator seems to have the biggest following of the three 'new' stars, because he was prominently featured in many H-B all-star reunions of the 70s and 80s- Touche, Lippy and Hardy much less so.

    The Magilla and Potamus shows also had staying power in syndication, and initially benefited from the Ideal sponsorship.

    Of course, Ruff and Reddy seemed to disappear from syndication by the mid-60s. And the mysterious 1965 SINBAD JR. cartoons are a total unknown outside of token bootleg videos and Youtube.

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    1. Miami's WCIX aired Sinbad Jr. (both versions) weekday afternoons in the late 1970's, but I haven't seen them since then. Supposedly AIP withdrew them from syndication. I wonder who owns them now? Sony?

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    2. Of course much of AIP's library fell into Orion's hands in the 80's, so there's a possibility MGM has it today.

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    3. Didn't Sony recently buy (what's left of) what MGM owns?

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    4. The only own a percentage of MGM at present, MGM is owned by several companies including equity firms.

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    5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGM_Holdings

      The own only 20%

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  3. Here's a quote from the "Television Selections" column of the Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer Monday September 10, 1962:

    "5PM..Five O'Clock Show Ch. 5 (WEWS)Little Rascals Return: New Cartoons are Lippy The Lion,Wally Gator, Touche Turtle and New Adventures of Rocky And Friends"

    The 5:00 Show was hosted by Captain Penny (Ron Penfound) He also was on 12:10-1 Weekdays..Rival KYW-TV 3 carried Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw McGraw, but they would all move to channel 5 the following season (1963-64)

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  4. Those cartoons still air as fillers on some parts of the world. Cartoon Network's Japanese station, for example, would air them in-between shows (yes, even during anime).

    I think you hit the nail on the head. They really were just fillers. Good to have some work going and make some quick cash.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Maltese did some of the stories on these cartoons.

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  5. Aside from the 'filler' aspect of these cartoons, it is interesting they do have an audience someplace out there in the world. Reminded of seeing a couple commercials from Brazil that figured Hardy Har Har into 'em!

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  6. The Wally Gator and Touché Turtle cartoons used to be airing too as fillers in the early Teletoon Franco days (circa 1997-1999), in a time when they didn't ran again their lineup from commercials (Others than Teletoon promos).

    This two fillers was back ages later by the Teletoon Retro Franco lineup like their individual 30 minutes show in 2009-2010 season, but with reasons, they ran it for one year only, along with the Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound cartoons as i remember. No words for Lippy tough.

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  7. Hopefully the New Yorkers who post here (Hi, Guys!) will correct me if I’m wrong – but I recall Wally, Touché, and Lippy debuting here on a WPIX –11 show called “Cartoon Zoo”, hosted by “Zoo Keeper Milt Moss”.

    Mr. Moss would wear a zoo keeper’s output – and stand in front of cages that contained cardboard cutouts of Wally, Touché, and Lippy – and introduce the cartoons. I even had a publicity photo of him standing in front of the Wally cage.

    And, was “Beachcomber Bill” syndicated? Back in the day, I just assumed it was another locally produced kiddie show. Even though a “beachcomber” seemed a little odd for New York – as opposed to “Officer Joe Bolton” and “Captain Jack McCarthy”, etc.

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  8. I wish Boomerang would start airing the "Boomerang Zoo" hour-long format again, and start showing these Wally/Lippy/Touche cartoons. They haven't for a while. The channel has gone downhill lately, showing crap like Pokemon and Ben 10. They've ruined the channel. Bring back the classic HB stuff!!

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  9. In the Hampton Roads area..if my memory serves..Wally, Lippy, and Touche were run afternoons as part of WVEC's " Bungles The Clown " show. I know that " The Huckleberry Hound Show " was. Of course Kelloggs was the sponsor for Huck. Anon-I haven't watched " Boomerang " for a awhile. I used to catch " The Bommerang Zoo " Saturday mornings. I'm afraid O'l " Bommerang " will eventually go the same way " Cartoon Network " went. Remember how great CN used to be? At least for us who enjoy the original cartoons.

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  10. There may not have been any specific dates for when these cartoons aired in the US, but there are in Japan.

    Nippon Television, a Japanese TV network, aired Lippy, Wally, and Touche together on Fridays at 7:00-7:30 pm JST from July 10 to September 25 of 1964 (yes, only 2 months).

    Eventually Tokyo 12 Channel (now TV Tokyo) started airing throughout the '70s and '80s, although I don't have the dates for that. Over there, I believe it was part of "Manga no Kuni" (Cartoon Country), which aired Japanese-dubbed Hanna-Barbera shows and old '60s/'70s anime.

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    1. It's nice that it aired at all over there in the 60's (though interesting for the 2 months alone since it sounds like they'd only get through a quarter of the 52 episodes each that way).

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  11. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth and HB-fans from this blessed world,

    The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series (1962) also was known as the Wally, Lippy & Touché trilogy.
    Seeing the episodes from the three segments from this trilogy, I could recognize, in some episodes, the character designs done by Dick "Bick" Bickenbach, Ed Benedict, Walter Clinton, Jack Huber and Iwao Takamoto.
    In terms of animation, I could recognize, in some episodes, the animations done by Kenneth Muse, Carlo Vinci, Ed Love, George Nicholas, Bill Keil, Don Patterson, Hugh Fraser, Dick Lundy and Jack Ozark.

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