Prime-time cartoons were all the rage in 1961, and the TV Radio Mirror was there to cover the story.
The Mirror was a precursor to the supermarket tabloids of today. It contained newsy items of what was happening in television but was more into stories such as (and these are actual titles) “Why I’m Still a Bachelor”, “Why I Quit The Edge of Night” and “The Day They Told Marty Milner ‘You’ll Never Walk Again’,” interspersed among ads for hair colouring products, tampons and books with marriage advice. The actor profiles are fairly fluffy and far more innocent than the preoccupation with sex, rehab and “celebrity” gossip that seems to circulate in successor publications in this day and age. They’re a great little time capsule and it’s neat to read something about, say, Don Knotts at home.
1961 saw the debut of “Top Cat,” “The Bullwinkle Show,” “The Alvin Show” and “Calvin and the Colonel” in prime-time, thanks to the success of “The Flintstones” and “The Bugs Bunny Show” the season before. The first three soon ended up on weekend mornings and the fourth became an Amos ‘n’ Andy footnote. The Mirror’s fall preview issue had brief mentions of them (with publicity art for “Top Cat” and “Calvin”) and then featured T.C.’s Arnold Stang in a two-page spread in its October edition. One page was a full-colour drawing of T.C. and Benny the Ball. The other had a family photo and the following text about Stang. Fans reading this post probably know all this information but I post it nonetheless.
HOT VOICE FOR A COOL CAT
Arnold Stang’s high-decibel tones send strong and clear from the back fence for a loveable backslid feline
Arnold Stang, the funny little man with the famous falsetto, takes on a new job this fall as the voice of a battling big-city feline known as "Top Cat" or "T.C." to his furry friends in the ashcan set. Stang, who weighs in at 106 and stands five-three, has parlayed this unprepossessing exterior and unique voice into a steady success as an actor-comedian. With oversize lens-less glasses ("Who needs glasses?") perched on his parrot-like nose, Stang has panicked the customers on TV and in movies—enacting roles sometimes requiring comedy facility, sometimes dramatic talent in touching characterizations. . . . Movie-goers may recall him best for his superb acting as Sparrow, the little punk who was Sinatra's sidekick in "The Man with the Golden Arm." TV viewers will probably recall him as the stagehand who regularly frustrated the star on The Milton Berle Show. And, on radio, Stang was well established as Seymour on The Goldbergs. In more recent years, he did a regular comedy stint on Bert Parks' Bandstand show, sandwiched in with numerous dramatic roles on major TV shows. . . . Top Cat is a new cartoon animal comedy series from the Hanna-Barbera studio, which originated that successful Stone Age romp, The Flintstones. Along with "T.C." Stang, there is a roster of famous voices. Benny the Ball, T.C.'s straight man, has the voice of Maurice Gosfield of "Doberman" fame. Allen Jenkins talks for a "human" policeman, Officer Dibble. Fancy Fancy, a feline Don Juan, is played by John Stephenson. Spook and Brain—two far-out cool cats—are spoken for by comedian Leo DeLyon. Choo-Choo, an impetuous tom more daring than wisdom dictates, is voice-fed by Marvin Kaplan. . . . With his commitment for this series, Arnold Stang has moved his family from their home in New Rochelle, near New York, to the Los Angeles area—a cross-country trek which represents a change of home and school life for JoAnne, Arnold's pretty wife, and David Donald, 10, and Deborah, 9 ... as pictured above with "T.C."
Beginning Sept. 27, Top Cat will be seen on ABC-TV, Wednesdays, 8:30 P.M. EDT, as sponsored by Bristol-Myers Company and the Kellogg Co.
The Mirror used its pages for a promo piece on “The Flintstones” earlier in the year but there’s also a mention of the Modern Stone Age Family in an article by Jo Ranson in the December issue, where 10-year-olds talk about their favourite TV shows.
Youngsters of all ages are infatuated with the production of The Flintstones, each episode of which costs $65,000 to produce. Surveys have shown that children will watch cartoons over and over again, each time with glassy-eyed receptivity. This, however, is not true of The Flintstones—this reporter's survey reveals that it is greeted with the enthusiasm children usually reserve only for a super-duper royal banana split.
Joe Barbera, who is responsible for the creative end of The Flintstones, remarked recently: "Cartoons have changed. They've grown up. It is very difficult now to write just for kids. The kids today are too smart. We use updated dialogue, updated situations. Right from the start, we steered away from the icky, juvenile stuff of the past." As a result, The Flintstones has a following from six to sixty.
Opined one tousle-haired ten-year-old from Levittown, Long Island:
"Yummy, yummy, yummy! The Flintstones! They're cute! They live in the Rock Age! They are cavemen! They are like cartoons! It's a Suburban Rock Age! It's a half-hour program! It's on at eight-thirty! It's keen! It's yummy! That's all!" This is the manner in which most of the youngster generation appears to express itself about television programing today.
I don’t believe I’ve seen Joe Barbera use the word “icky” before. He wasn’t specific about which cartoons he was referring to. Certainly not Quick Draw McGraw, I imagine. Unfortunately, the word might be used to describe some his own studio’s product in later years.