Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Giving Credit

I sure miss Earl Kress.

Earl, if you don’t know, was a writer for Hanna-Barbera and other cartoon studios. He loved old cartoons and was a great student of them. He probably knew more about the early H-B cartoons than anyone else at the time of his death. The same with the Capitol Hi-Q and Langlois Filmmusic libraries that he researched so music from the Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw shows could be released on CD by Rhino (in the end, he could only get nine cues by Phil Green cleared and never did find a clean copy of his favourite Langlois cue by Jack Shaindlin because the owners didn’t have one). I could go on and on about his work on DVDs but we’ll take a pass on that for a moment.

Earl was gracious enough to carry on e-mail and forum conversations with many people, myself included. At the end, I had no idea how sick he was but he was still volunteering to hunt around his home office looking for information he couldn’t recall off the top of his head.

The other day, Earl’s widow Denise sent me a parcel with papers that have been sitting in the office since Earl passed away in 2011. One thing I’m happy to receive is a photocopy of files from Leo Burnett (Kellogg’s agency) with production information about the Huck and Yogi shows; I imagine Earl got this when the Huck and Yogi DVDs were being assembled. There are also selected pages of cue sheets for The Flintstones; again, I believe Earl was trying to get information about specific songs used on the show; he has pages which list “The Car Hop Song” and “Bedrock Twitch,” for example.

To the right is a page which I post for a couple of reasons. You’ll notice three things. One is there is absolutely no mention of Hoyt Curtin. With Hanna and Barbera listed as the composers, they get the royalties. Period. I can’t help but wonder if something changed contractually after this; you’ll find Curtin’s name included in compositions if you check out the current BMI catalogue.

Another thing is Earl has used a pen to notate “Main Title” as “Rise and Shine.” It’s obvious the cue wasn’t called “Rise and Shine” until some time after it was composed; it was called “Main Title” when the series began in 1960. It could very well be, though I don’t know, that when a vocal version of the cue was released on Golden Records in October 1961 (along with “Meet the Flintstones”) that lyrics and a new name were written then. But, again, I don’t know. Bill Hanna’s autobiography recalls that Curtin wrote the music first and he wrote the lyrics to match it, but whether he’s talking about “Rise and Shine” or “Meet the Flintstones” (which was used starting in the third season in 1962), he’s not clear. Hanna makes no mention of a change in theme songs.

Earl tried to get to the bottom of the change. Heres what he wrote in 2009:

Hoyt Curtin told me that it was Bill Hanna's decision to switch to the new theme song. And here's where even the people that were there can have memory lapses. He said it was because Bill decided he wanted a song with lyrics. However, "Rise and Shine" also has lyrics. I think it was because "Meet the Flintstones" was a better introduction to the show, in the same way that "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" tells the whole backstory of "The Beverly Hillbillies". I believe that's why the theme song was changed.
As to why it never appeared in the syndication package... again, it was Bill Hanna's decision. In those days, 16mm films were "bicycled" (an industry term) around to the various local stations. They didn't each keep a complete set of prints on hand. It would have been too costly and taken up too much space. Hanna knew that because of this delivery system, the shows would never air in order again and he felt it would be too jarring if the theme song kept switching back and forth from day to day, so he had the original stripped off and used "Meet the Flintstones" exclusively. It had nothing to do with the sponsor plugs, since, as everyone has now seen, generic versions exist (in color) without the sponsor billboards. The openings with the sponsors in them only exist in black & white.
By the way, it was me that found the color opening and closing. Turner people said it didn't exist and even went so far as to colorize the "Rise and Shine" main title until I turned them up. I knew they had to exist because Pat Ventura had the original exposure sheets to them and there were different versions clearly labeled on them, including a generic one.
The other thing of note on the sheet above is that Curtin didn’t assign names to instrumental cues at all. You’ll see they’re simple labelled “File #” (As a side note, the cue sheet for P-140 “Surfin’ Fred” lists two separate cues “Wax Up Your Boards” and “Surf’s Up” by Phil Sloan and Steve Barri, who were—are you surprised?—on the music staff at Screen Gems. The cues are both variations on “Surfin’ Craze,” the “Surfin’ USA” knock-off heard on the cartoon).

It’s with a great deal of trepidation I post the document to the right because there are people who will want hijack this post into a discussion about the song or cartoon in question. No comments, please. The songs in the memo about “No Biz Like Show Biz” were both released on Hanna-Barbera Records, sung by “Pebbles” and “Bamm-Bamm” (aka Rebecca and Ricky Page).

Let’s turn our attention to something a little more pleasant and, in a moment, bring in Earl Kress to answer a question a number of readers have asked. When The Flintstones changed themes in 1962, the opening and closing title animation was completely redone. When the show went into syndication in 1966, the original animation was stripped from the first two seasons of the show and the newer animation was substituted. Unfortunately, the credits from the originals disappeared with the old animation, and one set of credits from a later episode was used for all cartoons from the first two seasons.

At the time The Flintstones was being assembled for laser disc release in 1997, Earl dug through the H-B archives, found some lovely opening/closing animation that accompanied the original “Rise and Shine” theme, had gang credits superimposed and attached it all to the first two seasons’ worth of cartoons. It was nice to see the 1960 animation in colour but, unfortunately, the original credits for each show were unable to be re-created. However, occasionally, one of the original 16mm Flintstones films which has everything, including commercials and credits, appears. Such is the case for the first season episode P-20 “Arthur Quarry’s Dance Class.” So we now know, officially, who worked on the cartoon; the fans-make-it-up websites are maddeningly wrong (and unsourced) a lot of the time. About the re-assembled credits, Earl wrote:

The original credits were show specific and changed each week. We couldn't find those in color, but we did find the "textless" end credits and made up one set that incorporated as many names as we had at that time. (I culled many of the names from those existing network prints...)
Before we get to the credits, announcer Bill Baldwin reminds us that the Flintstones are brought to you by a certain product that Alan Reed sings off-key about; I wonder if smoking ruined his singing voice. Anyway, you know the scene. Ken Muse animates Fred getting locked out of the house after he tries to put Baby Puss out for the night. There are several cuts to a flashing sponsor sign. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna alternated whose name went first on the credits; it was Barbera’s turn this time.



If you have the DVDs with the re-created titles, you’ll notice something else. The billboard in the foreground with the flashing Winston is missing. And the little scene with the mouth-less sleeping Wilma is also missing. The original has the animation of Bedrock fade into the scene from the commercial.



The question has been raised a number of times: why does Wilma have no mouth? Was this intentional? Was it accidental? Earl may be with us no longer, but he did provide an answer about the mouth-less scene when the DVDs came out.
“This actually never aired this way, because they only ever aired the version that had the sponsor plug in it. So this generic version was filmed but never used.”
And Earl further speculated in an old message board post:
"That animation doesn't exist in the B & W sponsor version. That part was animated to take up the space where the sponsor plug would have been. My guess is, because the color version was never seen in the original or syndicated run, it wasn't worth the expense to go back and fix it."
However, I’m not so certain that Earl is correct. He would be if he’s talking about the United States. But The Flintstones aired in foreign countries, Canada being one of them. For example in 1961, the show aired Sunday afternoons at 5 on Channel 10 in London, Ontario. It would not have been sponsored by Winstons as American cigarettes were not (and I don’t believe are today) sold in Canada. So there would have to be a different ending. My memory doesn’t go back far enough about The Flintstones, but I do recall the CBC had a different ending to the Huckleberry Hound Show with a theme that wasn’t quite the same as the Kellogg’s references were all deleted. So it could be that the animation you see on DVD aired in Canada or Great Britain or Australia or some other place. It’s a shame Earl isn’t around to talk about it. I miss him. But it was kind and generous of Denise Kress to send some of Earl’s files to me. In a way, it’s a little like he’s still here and helping us learn more.

12 comments:

  1. I liked the Flintstones comic strip with the (mini)DRAGON powered cigarette lighter. If pokemon could be depicted a similar way often.

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  2. There's a YouTube video out there of the original Hanna-Barbera opening for "Bewitched" in color instead of B&W for the Japanese market (you can tell it's the animation from the first two seasons by some differences in the backgrounds from what was done for the Season 3 animation). And there's also the dialogue-less titles from a South American print of the "Peter Potamus Show" (because there was no need to have English-language lyrics if the viewers speak Portuguese and Spanish). So different foreign and domestic titles for "The Flintstones" which replaced the end Winston plug with sleeping, mouthless Wilma would be in line with some of the other things done for foreign markets by H-B and Screen Gems.

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  3. Thanks Yowp. I always wondered why Wilma's mouth was missing in the first season ending credits, and thanks to Earl Kress, I know. I had forgotten that Bill Baldwin was the announcer on The Flintstones Winston outro. Baldwin was a busy man around that time. If he wasn't behind the mic, he was in front of the camera.

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    1. Well, he was with KBH, the Voice of Beverly Hills.

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  4. Earl Kress was also a voice artist. On the CD "Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Sound FX" he provided the voices of Quick Draw McGraw, Wally Gator, Hokey Wolf, Snagglepuss, Peter Potamus, and others. His affinity for the characters shines through in his voice work; it is clear he was striving to be as authentic as possible.

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    1. Quite true, SC33. He studied with Daws Butler.

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  5. Very cool stuff. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

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  6. I enjoy this post..which shows here in the US originally, WilmaSC wasn't shown sleeping with or without mouth.. very good work, Yowp..!

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  7. My DVD collection was all the better for Earl's efforts and dedication - and, alas, has not been the same in the area of H-B animation since his passing!

    Rest well, Earl! Your work was and STILL IS very much appreciated!

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  8. I remember back in the 70's the syndicated prints I was seeing for the first two seasons had the "Meet The Flintstones" opening, but there was a (C) 1966 copyright notice at the bottom, I think when Fred was at the time clock. The redone end titles with the MTF theme used the same font that the original B/W titles used instead of what was used in seasons 3-6. The Screen Gems logo used was similar to the one used in The Jetsons and Top Cat. One day the local station ran a B/W print of the episode when the boys were in the Army with the Rise And Shine opening and closing titles. I had heard variants of that in music cues in other episodes, but my 12 year old mind was confused.

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  9. I'm 49 yo, and I also remember the © 1966 notice for the synd. versions of the S1/S2 episodes (& the 1st 2 episodes of S3) of "TF".
    The synd. outro used for these eps, I've learned, was that of S3E3/"Barney the Invisible", the first "TF" episode to utilize the MEET THE FLINTSTONES theme song.

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  10. I had always thought that the reason THE FLINTSTONES' theme music changed was because its melody was eerily similar to that of THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW's "This Is It." If both series hadn't debuted within days of each other (and on the same network), I would have suspected a lawsuit was filed by one studio or the other and that H-B was the loser, but came out with a theme that was, arguably, far more memorable. Since Earl doesn't mention this, I assume I was wrong--but I always thought it was weird that they were essentially the same song.

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