Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Man Behind the Cash Behind Hanna-Barbera

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.”

14 comments:

  1. I was always surprised Columbia didn't make a greater effort to keep Hanna-Barbera within the Screen Gems orbit after the Taft Broadcasting deal. Think about what Justin could have done with Scoob and the gang (well, at least for purely monetary purposes -- I'd rather not think of Scoob and the gang if I don't have to).

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  2. Yowp you are right about the verbage on the Frank Devol trumpet signatured " Dancing sticks Logo " from Screen Gems. Anything produced by Columbia Pictures Televison had the announcer say; " A Screen Gems Production ", ala " Bewitched " and others. But, anything produced by an outside company, ie, Hanna-Barbera, and released by CPT had ; " A Screen Gems Presentation ". Great blog! Off the subject, The Dancing Sticks logo had been restored and is at the ending of the Season Three " Hazel " DVD. It has been a long time.

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  3. Everything that could have been done, should have been done, in order to stop the Turner company from taking control of the HB library, may not seem like such a loss, but a lot of good actors lost residual money that they should have got out of their work, on account of this

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  4. Yowp, here's your memory refresher-

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cvaeRub9ul

    Even though the publication date of the second article was a few years past their moneymaking prime, still thought it strange the Monkees didn't rate a mention, seeing as how they were a HUGE cash cow for Screen Gems. The Three Stooges, as well.

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  5. I read about Hustin Edd as a seventies teenager (a SMART, non-Scooby addicted one!:-)) in in televiison sociolgist, Prof.Rose Gioldsen's 19078, "THe Show and Tell Machine: How TV Works and Works [sic] you over", Delta Press.

    In addition ot J.Lee's "not wanting to think about Scoob", what with the light bubblegum on that, and making the well knwon Bobby Sherman tie, it's odd that HE never had a cartoon, given that other bubblegum acts did, both pre-0existing [in HB The Partirdge family and at Rankin-Bass The Jackson 5ive[sic] and The Osmoinds] or fictional [at HB., Josie.]

    Maybe for COlumbia/SG's part for them it was good that they and HB split..and Erroll, finally, yes I DO remember the "A SCREEN GEMS PRODUCTION" for in-house production and "A SCREEN GEMS PRESENTATION" for HB shows produced by Columbia..[thank you, Colin mare..]. Screen Gems studio, of course, has been making films as a evived studio for over ten years, with the late 60s toilet paper logo [as GAC forums once called it], wkith Eric Siday's creepy organ music..that too appeared on the final HB's[the last seasons of the "Flintstonesw",for instance.]Steve

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    1. H-B maintained an occasional relationship with Screen Gems into the 70s, both with the Partridge Family 2200 AD and the Jeanie cartoons. But when they did their "Charlotte's Web" feature film, it was released via Paramount, which had developed a working relationship with Taft and it's King's Island/King's Dominion parks north of Cincinnati that Gulf+Western would eventually take over.

      (...and for nostalgia purposes only, there is a clip on Daily Motion with the closing part of the Magilla Gorilla theme that didn't make it onto the HB pick-a-nic basket CD, complete with the SG dancing sticks logo)

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  6. The 'dancing sticks' close seemed to follow all H-B and Screen Gems live-action shows for the 1963-64 and 1964-65 TV seasons. I remember seeing at after THE FLINTSTONES, THE MAGILLA GORILLA SHOW, and possibly JONNY QUEST. Then the famous 'toilet paper' logo arrived in 1965, which meant the last season of THE FLINTSTONES and the post-Kelloggs 1966 syndicated version of THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW.

    But going back from 1963-64, there was only an onscreen 'Screen Gems' credit at the very end of THE FLINTSTONES and JETSONS closing credits. TOP CAT has had the same closing credit sequence through many years of syndication, cable and home video, with no Screen Gems credit. So I can only speculate that the original ABC prime-time airings- which also had episode-specific credits, according to Earl Kress- had the Screen Gems credit as well.

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    1. Yep -- the September 1960-August 1963 prime-time HB shows like Top Cat, along with Quick Draw and Yogi's syndicated shows, carried the Screen Gems notification on the end credits.

      For some reason, even though they used the standard late 1950s SG logo to close out the Huck show, the revised 'Proud Lady' ending never made it onto the other shows, while the separated end logos for 1963-66 did. It may have been because the shows were not official Screen Gems productions, but it did end up forcing the Turner people to re-film the end titles (screwing up the credits in the process) in the early 1990s in order to eliminate the SC and CPC references.

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  7. Those figures on the shelf are amazing and like you, have not seen them come up for auction ever! BUT did you notice the not the 3 foot tall Hucks and Yogis in the center, but the 3 foot Mr. Jinks that is obviously a store display thing because you can barely see its mounted. Looks like it might be plastic or something...if only we could see the whole thing! its off to the left

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  8. 7/29/12
    RobGems.ca wrote:
    The Screen Gems "Dancing Sticks" first appeared on TV screens on September 15,1963, and lasted until September 1965, except in Canada, where they continued using the old logo until September 1966. The last known H-B show to have the "Dancing Sticks" was the March 1966 Canadian version of "Alice In Wonderland (or What's A Nice Kid Like You Doing in A Place Like This)" TV special. Americans had the Screen Gems "S From Hell" logo on it's film prints.

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  9. "Hone$t Ed" Justin was Columbia's merchandising genius for years [his slogan- "Not needy, just greedy"], and he made sure that various H-B character merchandise appeared occasionally in several live-action Screen Gems sitcoms as well; the best example is an Ideal "Ricochet Rabbit" doll appearing as one of Tabitha's toys at the beginning of a 1967 "BEWITCHED" episode {although Darrin referred to it as "Peter Rabbit"}. Justin even went so far as to have a 1966 Libbey "Jeannie" doll worked into the plot of a December 1966 "I DREAM OF JEANNIE" episode, "My Master, the Author" [even though it was supposed to air before Christmas, not AFTER].

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  10. 8/17/12
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    It should notified by an error by one of the reply letters above stated that Colin Mare was the announcer of The Screen Gems Dancing Sticks logo. It was in fact Colin Male, and he was a well-known announcer in the 60's & 70's, best known for announcing the intros of The Andy Griffith Show & The Dick Van Dyke Show.

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  11. Out of curiosity I found this and am happy to see positive thoughts about Ed Justin. I worked for him back in 1975 and found him to be a very tough but fair person. I learned many aspects of management from him and after he left, his division was torn apart by the new management that took over.
    I still remember the party that he gave and a picture of him and some of his friends in an roadster from the old days.

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  12. 9/15/13
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Historical note: It was on this day September 15,1963, 50 years ago that the Screen Gems' "Dancing Sticks" logo made it's debut on tv screens premeiring on Screen Gems shows as "Redigo", "Grindl", "The Farmer's Daughter", "Hazel", "Route 66",and H-B shows "The Flintstones" & "The Magilla Gorilla Show", which would have a national debut (on ABC) in September 1966, after two years of syndicated airings. Columbia Pictures' boss Abe Schnieder and his assistant V-P son Bert Schnieder would have a hand behind the logo's creation, and some input was made by SG alumni Harry Ackerman, John Mitchell, and William Dozier (soon to leave SG in December 1963 to form his own company, Greenway Productions.) His replacement was Jackie Cooper, the former child actor. Music for the logo was by Frank De Vol's orchestra, and announcing ("A Screen Gems" Presentation/Production!) was mainly by Colin Male, except for episodes of "Route 66", which had announcer Hal Gibney stating "A Screen Gems Production, Herbert B. Leonard, Executive Producer." Ed Justin's role continued to be behind the sales pitches for H-B toys & merchandise. Happy 50th Anniversary, Screen Gems' Dancing Sticks.

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