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.
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.