Thursday, 11 September 2014

Park Avenue Indians

Anyone recognise the characters in this drawing by Ed Benedict? The only series I can think of featuring native Americans never got off the ground. And it kicked around Hanna-Barbera for two years.

During the late ‘50s and into the ‘60s, Daily Variety reported on a number of things the studio was proposing or developing that never reached the screen. Two of them were mentioned in a front-page story in the edition of November 30, 1962. The studio wanted to follow the Walt Disney route—shorts to features to live action, though it was a little hesitant about one of its concepts.

Here’s what the trade paper had to say:

Hanna-Barbera Prepping 4 Pilots
Hanna-Barbera Productions is planning four half-hour comedy pilots, and their program includes an expansion into the telefilm series area, as distinguished from animation, which has been company's principal activity to date, with such series as "The Jetsons" and "The Flintstones."
Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna said yesterday vehicle planned as a regular series is untitled, that it's a period (1910) piece. That and "The Park Avenue Indians," a tentative title, may go either animation or regular series route, he said. Joanne Lee has been signed to pen an original for "Indians," which will deal with experiences of a N.Y. model who becomes involved in real estate.
They also reported H-B has acquired its first property for feature filming, but said negotiations are now on for various facets of it, so he could not disclose deals. H-B is also working on an animation feature of its "Yogi Bear" for Columbia release.

Joanna Lee’s name should be familiar to people who watched the credits on the first Hanna-Barbera prime-time shows, as she worked on “The Flintstones,” “Top Cat,” “The Jetsons” and “Jonny Quest.” She also wrote for a number of top live-action sitcoms.

What the period piece was, neither Bill Hanna nor Joe Barbera apparently disclosed to the press. And “Indians” seemed to be shelved for almost two years, when it was re-announced in Daily Variety on October 21, 1964. Mike Connolly’s column in the October 28th edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went into a teeny bit of detail:

Actress-turned-writer Joanna Lee sold an original, “The Park Avenue Indians,” to Hanna-Barbera. It will be the first full-length live-action feature for the cartoonists. It’s about some Tenth Avenue Redskins who stumble onto a snafu in Peter Stuyvesant’s old real estate contract and discover they own most of Manhattan.

Nothing about fashion models. In fact, the concept for “Indians” now sounds suspiciously like a TV show where some poor people unexpectedly discovered they were filthy rich—so they loaded up their truck and they moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Well, if Hanna-Barbera borrowed from “The Honeymooners” and “Bilko,” why not grab something from the Number One TV show of 1963?

Joe Barbera was talking about the project as well. In one newspaper interview published on October 24th, he revealed “Indians” was one of three live-action feature films in the works, the other two being “Mr. Mysterious” and “Father Was a Robot.” We talked about those two in this post.

But this little flurry of press activity seems to have been it. I haven’t found any further reference to the film. In the meantime, Hanna-Barbera moved in another direction—creating brand-new cartoons for Saturday morning network television; what new cartoons existed on Saturday mornings before the 1965-66 season were made on the East Coast. It was far more lucrative for the studio than any native American movie comedy could possibly have been.

Oh, the answer to the question above. Joecab mentioned in the comment section the second season Flintstones episode “Droop A-Long Flintstone.” Well, here are some of the Indians as drawn by Carlo Vinci. It looks like some of Benedict’s designs above found their way into this shot, complete with raised big toe.

They’re only seen later in the cartoon as a clump in cycle animation that gets reused. Ken Muse drew them here.

Thanks to all of our commenters who helped put together the pieces of this H-B puzzler, and to Shane Glines for the Ed Benedict drawing that sparked the post.


  1. “It’s about some Tenth Avenue Redskins who stumble onto a snafu in Peter Stuyvesant’s old real estate contract and discover they own most of Manhattan.”

    This sounds a little bit like a live-action TV pilot produced by H-B in 1967 called “We'll Take Manhattan” starring Dwayne Hickman. I remember it had a short animated segment depicting the false sale of Manhattan to the settlers. That might be where the character sheet came from. I don’t remember very much about the program, except it was pretty bad.

  2. They also look like they could have come from the "Droop Along Flintstone" episode from season 2, no?

  3. Yes, H-B produced the "WE'LL TAKE MANHATTAN" pilot for Procter & Gamble (it aired in their Sunday night "HEY, LANDLORD!" time period over NBC on April 30, 1967). Hickman played a "bottom-rung" attorney for a prestigious law firm who agrees to take on the case of a VERY old Indian chief [Ben Blue] who wants all legal rights to Manhattan Island reverted to him. You can imagine the kind of situations the series would have explored...

  4. To me the "Park Avenue Indians" concept sound like another short subject animated Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon....SC

  5. Kudos to Hanna and Barbera for hiring writers of live-action sitcoms instead of exclusively relying on cartoon writers. Joanna Lee's scripts for "The Flintstones" are among the best in the series. She usually infuses a touch of feminism as well as a touch of romance, as in "Fred El Terrifico". She often focuses on the relationship between Fred and Wilma, although she also brings interesting dynamics to the relationship between Fred and Barney, and in her hands the characters are nicely developed. She also seems to enjoy taking an ordinary situation and taking it to extremes, as in "Fred's Monkey Shines." She is, of course, also the author who introduced "The Great Gazoo." Personally, I like all the seasons of "The Flintstones," so I don't mind that.

  6. Yowp,

    I was wondering if the We'll Take Manhattan pilot had been originally called How Neighbor! I was reading a DGA directory book from 1969-1970 that a man named Christopher Seitz had listed that he had worked on How Neighbor! for Hanna-Barbera.

    1. Connecting the dots, it appears that title was used along the way. Variety reported in January 1966 that Proctor and Gamble had signed Blue for "How Neighbor." No mention of Hanna-Barbera.
      In February 1967, Variety reported:
      "Well Take Manhattan," half-hour pilot produced by Hanna-Barbera, will air April 30 on NBC-TV, pre-empting "Hey Landlord."
      "Manhattan" stars Dwayne Hickman, Ben Blue, Leslie Perkins, Allen Melvin and Walter Woolf King. James Neilson directed script by Larry Markes and Michael Morris for producer Charles Stewart and associate producer Arthur Pierson.

    2. Yowp,

      So the We'll Take Manhattan pilot was filmed around January 1966 for the 1966-1967 season. Would Screen Gems-Columbia have been involved in this pilot as well?
      Dwayne Hickman devoted a paragraph in his Forever Dobie book to the We'll Take Manhattan pilot. Hickman said Hanna-Barbera wanted to get into the half-hour comedy business. They combined live action with cartoons in this pilot. He goes on to say that the networks were not ready for Joe Barbera's visionary genius so they passed on the pilot.

    3. That would seem logical, considering the HB prime time cartoons all had a Screen Gems logo at the end, but I've never seen anything one way or the other. Very little has been written about it.