If you’re old enough, you’ll remember seeing leaping lines and flashing lights at the end of Hanna-Barbera cartoons with a disembodied voice saying “A Screen Gems film presentation.” (it’s been about 50 years, so forgive me if the quote isn’t exact). The lines were, no doubt, leaping for joy over all the money pouring in to Screen Gems from Hanna-Barbera character licensing fees.
Columbia Pictures, through its Screen Gems subsidiary, not only had a percentage of the Hanna-Barbera studio when it opened, it cleverly had a percentage of the licensing of everything the studio turned out. And licensing was the financial engine that drove the studio (and influenced programming; witness how Wilma Flintstone’s baby had a sex change before it got on the air, thanks to the wishes of Ideal Toys).
Author Tim Hollis is in the process of putting together a book on cartoon character licensing and merchandising. He’s been gracious enough to send a piece from TV Guide dated February 1963 about Ed Justin, the man who handled licensing of the H-B characters for Screen Gems. You can click on each photo to enlarge it.
Tim’s separated the pictures as well. The commentary below each is his.
At the far left hand side, through the window you can see a yellow Fred bop bag with a big red nose. I actually have one of those in the museum, and it's funny because the pet dinosaur on it is labeled as "DEENO."
More inconsistent colors, including blonde Betty!
I'd say that cartoon textiles (clothing, etc) are among the rarest of all collectibles since people rarely had any reason to keep them after their kids outgrew wearing them. I have childhood photos of me wearing Yogi, Flintstones, etc shirts, but while my parents were great about preserving stuff, I don't have ANY of them today.
In this one, TV Guide's relatively cheap printing process really shows up in the poor color registration. Still an impressive batch of books, though! I think I have nearly every one in this shot except the Wally Gator coloring book.
And here's the really good stuff. On the shelf in the background, notice what appear to be vinyl figures (or banks) of the Jetsons, Touche Turtle and even Mr. Twiddle. I have never seen a single one of these turn up for sale or in any collector's hoard, so they must have had very limited distribution or else these were prototypes that never went on sale in the first place. Just how many kids wanted a Mr. Twiddle to play with, anyway?!
Here’s a feature syndicated by the Washington Post about Screen Gems character licensing from the Winnipeg Free Press dated January 31, 1973. You now know who was responsible for those Bobby Sherman records on the backs of Alpha-Bits boxes. You now know why Hanna-Barbera was anxious to keep reinventing the Flintstones and Yogi Bear. It had little to do with making cartoons and almost everything to do with making licensing money. And you now know why actors start calling lawyers when new media featuring their old shows comes along and they get a token amount for it. It’s because licensing profits can be huge.
Ed Justin Rules A Lucrative Empire Of Names
By MEGAN ROSENFELD
NEW YORK (Special - TPNS) — One of the most unusual offices in this city has to be on the 12th floor of the Columbia Pictures building. Once past the usual glossy receptionists holding court in subdued executive niches, and potted plains with office complexions, the visitor finds a glass store front named in red:
Honest Ed Justin.
(With honest crossed out.)
Jammed in the window are plastic dishes, T-shirts, vitamin pills, comic books, lunch boxes, games, clothes, dolls and stuffed animals wearing expressions of sublime goofiness — all bearing the imprint of past and present television characters, from Yogi Bear to David Cassidy.
Honest Ed (the honest is crossed out because no one would trust a man who says he’s honest ... ) is the sign and the signature of the man who is in charge of merchandising for Screen Gems, the television production subsidiary of Columbia Pictures.
“Merchandising is the easiest business in the world,” says Honest Ed. “But don’t tell my bosses I said so. Essentially, merchandising is the business of licensing private entrepreneurs to use names, likenesses or themes from one of our television shows for the purpose of product advertising or identification.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the U.S. comes to be blessed with such objets d’art as Fred Flintstone vitamins and insecticides, David Cassidy towels, Yogi Bear coloring books, Bobby Sherman records in cereal boxes. Similar items can be found in Japanese, Australian, Mexican, Finnish, Yugoslavian, Venezuelan and Brazilian incarnations, to name a few, which proves that the U.S. hasn’t the only people who have an inexplicable tendency to buy something more readily if it has some connection with show business.
Eddie Justin has been in charge of merchandising for Screen Gems for 37 years; before
that he did the same thing for NBC. Before that he ran summer camp for “overpriviliged
girls” in New Jersey, called Camp Swatona. At Camp Swatona he was known as Uncle Eddie, gave prizes to all the worst athletes, umpired fly balls into home runs and became a nervous wreck.
The job that had started as an escape from the rigors of practicing law (“I wasn’t mean enough lo be a lawyer”) became so ulcer-inducing that Uncle Eddie became Honest Ed and turned in his tent for an executive suite. Now a vice-president of Screen Gems, his department brings in so much money that Honest Ed’s eccentricities are tolerated.
His business card, for example introduces him as Honest Ed Justin, and states his office
hours on the back:
Consulting and negotiating.
Office hours: 8:30 -10:30 a.m. 2:30 - 6:30 p.m.
During othcr hours there will be an additional $5,000 cover charge.
During the four hours he is out of the office, Mr. Justin is swimming at the New York Athletic Club, doing as many laps as he has years, 60.
His mailings are clearly labeled “merchandising propaganda,” and are signed “not needy, just greedy, Honest Ed.”
In the office, behind a door with a dollar sign instead of a name plate, Mr. Justin rules a lucrative empire. “Our inventory is money,” he proclaims.
“We get five per cent royalty on each item. We don’t do any work but grant licenses; no designing or manufacturing — we just collect money.
“Now I don’t want to get into how much this one makes or that one makes; it’s never as much as people think anyway. You don’t really start to make money until a property is established, year after year. Everyone thinks the Partridge Family is such a big deal, but I’d trade a Partridge for a Fred Flintstone or a Yogi Bear any day.”
An item that brings in less than $40,000 is a waste of time, and Mr. Justin was quoted in a T.V. Guide article last year as saying that the Partridge Family has earned $100,000 in merchandising royalties during their first two years; most of which goes into the Screen Gems coffers.
In the merchandising biz, the Walt Disney outfit reigns as originator and all-time money maker. The revenue from Mickey Mouse alone is probably incalculable, not to mention all those Davy Crockett coonskin hats. Screen Gems, however, with more than 20,000 separate items and countless commercials in its inventory, is one of the biggies, and is in a position to consider license requests carefully and not get involved with every sweatshirt vendor with a stencil who knocks on the door. (As a matter of fact, sweatshirts are sure-fire nonsellers, according to Mr. Justin, who wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot Yogi Bear gent pole.)
The big money is in commercials, Justin says, not in the dolls and toys. In the old days, when merchandising was no more sophisticated than 60 million Buffalo Bob rings, the income from television personalities didn’t compare with what Screen Gems earns when, say Elizabeth Montgomery comes on at the end of Bewitched and eats a bowl of Kellogg’s corn flakes.
The Flintstones (Feuersteins in Deutsch) and Yogi Bear are probably the all-time greats in the Screen Gems merchandising repertoire, even though both programs are off the air except for reruns. There are countless toys and games, Yogi Bear restaurants and a chain of Jellystone Park campgrounds (Mr. Justin recently spoke to a convention of 93 campsite owners and managers). There is also the bank in Rhode Island that identifies with Fred Flintstone, as its ads proclaim:
“Yabba dabba doo love that old stone bank.”
One of Mr. Justin’s latest properties is Marjoe, the former child evangelist turned rock star and “the most exciting, new youthful personality in the world!” Among the product possibilities is a lifesize pillow that Mr. Justin’s sister-in-law Valerie, who runs pillow boutiques hi New York and Beverly Hills, plans to sell for $100.
Mr. Justin is also gearing up for a massive onslaught of products connected with Lost Horizons, the first movie he’s cared enough about to merchandise. He’s also branching into music and movie stars, with Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree, whom he admires greatly.
“No sweatshirts for them,” he said.
Honest Ed Justin is not a put on — probably. Myrna, his assistant for 17 years, says of her boss:
“He has fun. In this business you don’t have to do business with people you don’t like and there are few hassles.”
She herself smirks only slightly when explaining the meaning of JLAMI, a company Justin created a few years after the first trips to the moon. The initials stand for: Interplanetary Licenses and Merchandising Inc.
Mr. Justin travels a lot setting up deals in foreign countries (for a while he travelled as Hanger Ed with a Flintstone robot as his companion leaving his wife and wire-haired terrier in New York. On airplanes he writes song lyrics, some of which have been recorded by pop stars in Australia. He played one the other day:
“I’m an easy, easy does it guy
Not bursting with ambition.
For me the moon’s for gazing
The falling stars for wishing
I’m an easy, easy does it guy,
Not much on push and shoving—
Don’t want to own the world,
I just want my share of livin’.
A little love, a little laughter
That's pretty much what I’m after.”