Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Wilma and Brickrock

Today we can enjoy DVDs or on-line streams of our favourite old cartoons (or bootlegs in some cases). A generation ago, baby boomers ooh-ed and aww-ed about the latest home entertainment technology of the day—video cassettes. Yes, people could actually see some of their favourite cartoons without having to wait for them to appear on TV.

Who better to give free plugs for these wondrous new products than the people who appeared on the cartoons?

Mel Blanc and Jean Vander Pyl were the only main cast members of The Flintstones who were alive when episodes of the ‘60s show first started appearing on home video. Blanc had a whole new career at the time as a raconteur, showing up on talk shows to gab about the old days of the Jack Benny radio show and throw in samples of the voices of his characters (mainly the Maxwell, an English horse and Warner Bros. cartoon stars) that everyone instantly recognised. Vander Pyl seems to have been less in demand. Of the four main actors, her career was arguably the one with the lowest profile. She wasn’t known for much more than being Wilma Flintstone.

Still, we’ve stumbled across this story dated August 27, 1987. In the few interviews I’ve read, she strikes me as a modest, open person, and I’m glad to see she got more recognition in her later years (especially when the live-action Flintstones movie came out). The columnist asks the right (if obvious) questions—“What about the Honeymooners connection?” “Are the old cartoons better than the new ones?” “Are you surprised with the show’s success?”

The many voices of the Flintstone family the work of one
By Mike Cidoni

Gannett News Service
Jean Vander Pyl is never alone, even when she’s by herself.
Forget Sybil. Vander Pyl is a REAL mistress of multiple personalities. Each of hers collects a paycheck.
And there’s another check on the way, as Vander Pyl — the voices of Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone as well as eight occasional characters on “The Jetsons” — picks up her profits from the videocassette “The Flintstones: The First Episodes” (Worldvision, $29.95). The tape (arriving Aug. 29) features the animated series’ first four shows, which aired on ABC in the fall of 1990. When Vander Pyl picks up the phone, you half expect a blast from that past, you expect to hear Wilma; perhaps Pebbles and Bamm Bamm cooing in the background; maybe a few of Fred’s brontosaurus burgers broiling on the grill.
What yon get is a voice that’s husky, warm, matronly.
You get a feeling that Vander Pyl loves creating the voices of Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone. She loves to review the show’s original episodes. She has a gay old time whenever she returns to Bedrock.
Yon also get a little perplexed and a lot bedazzled.
Give Vander Pyl a cue. Any cue. And out comes a quiver. Then a nasally quake.
One word reveals it all. It’s Wilma, alright.
“And you’ll never believe it," says the 67-year-old Vander Pyl. “That’s all I need to say and I get surrounded by people. I’m more popular now than I was 20 years ago. It’s still a big deal.”
And it still gives the San Clemente-based Vander Pyl a bounty of work. She says her character is featured in a new series of ads, including one for MasterCard of England.
While she’s grateful for the recent Flintstone gigs, Vander Pyl agrees that they don’t make ’em — or write ’em — like they used to.
“Amen,” she says. “The writing, that parody, that wit. It was really ahead of its time. The originals — from 1960-66 — that we did ... Everybody says they’re the best. I have met so many people, kids 35 and 40, who grew up with the originals.”
Those first “Flintstone” shows, which make up the longest-running animated series in prime-time history, are now in syndication. They’ve also inspired a string of spin-offs including the Saturday-morning series “Pebbles and Bamm Bamm” and ABC’s current “The Flintstones Kids.”
Hanna-Barbera also is in pre-production with its big-budget live-action “Flintstones” feature starring Jim Belushi as the hard-headed Fred.
Vander Pyl hopes the new projects will recapture the spirit and success of the earliest episodes.
“(Producers) Mr. Barbera and Mr. Hanna were such pioneers,” she explains. “They had seen that something like 90 percent of ‘Huckleberry Hound’s audience was over the age of 19. So they decided to try an experiment an animated series strictly for adults that would air in prime time.”
The late Alan Reed gave a voice to Fred. Mel (“Bugs Bunny”) Blanc played neighbor Barney Rabble. Vander Pyl originally auditioned for the role of Barney’s wife, Betty. But she lost the part to the late Bea Benaderet (who simultaneously played Kate, the mother, on CBS’ “Petticoat Junction.”)
“Almost all of us came from radio,” Vander Pyl says. “And in radio days, if you couldn’t do two or three characters in one show, you didn’t work. Who’s gonna pay for three actors if you can get just one to do three parts?"
Impressed with Vander Pyl’s versatility, Barbera cast her as Wilma.
“He showed us some drawings and told us ‘This show was kind of inspired by “The Honeymooners’.” So, at first, Vander Pyl based Wilma on Jackie Gleason’s “Honeymooners” wife, Audrey Meadows.
“You know what I mean,” Vander Pyl explains. Then she breaks into flat, through-the-nose Meadows impersonation. “Oh, Raaalph!”
She says Barbera’s direct command to clone “The Honeymooners” separates “The Flintstones: The First Episodes” from the rest in the series.
"When we first started the show, we were all striving — more or less — for that ... I have to come out and say it. We were copying THEM,” she says, laughing. “But it only lasted for about three or four shows because we quickly eased into our characters. Now, I think Wilma’s more like me. A caricature version. People that know me well can spot me in Wilma. I get awfully angry at men sometimes.”
Oddly enough, in its debut season (1960-61), “The Flintstones” scored a higher Nielsen ranking than its original inspiration. It also had a longer run (the original “Honeymooners” ran just a season, “The Flintstones” ran for six).
“And nobody really expected it to go that long. It was just something they were going to try out,” she says.
Vander Pyl may have won the audition for Wilma, but it wasn’t her first role at Hanna-Barbera. When the studio expanded in 1959 to add the half-hour Quick Draw McGraw Show, Joe Barbera went out to look for new voices. One was Vander Pyl, whose first role was Mrs. J. Evil Scientist on a Snooper and Blabber cartoon.

Vander Pyl and the Flintstones’ cast received an unexpected honour in the series’ second season. This is likely a news release from studio PR flack Arnie Carr and appeared in the Binghamton Press of January 6, 1962.

Flintstones Are Invited To Film Festival
A new honor has just been bestowed on the ABC-TV television program, The Flintstones, in the form of an invitation to enter the Monte Carlo TV Film Festival being held this month.
The invitation specifically requested that the Flintstone episode, "Alvin Brickrock Presents," represent the Flintstones show in the comedy category.
"Alvin Brickrock Presents" has to do with a neighbor of the Flintstones and the Bubbles, Alvin Brickrock, whose strange activities with spades, shovels, and coffin-like boxes leads Flintstone and Rubble to suspect that Alvin has done away with his wife — whose absence from the Brickrock home is not satisfactorily explained.
To qualify for the Monte Carlo Festival, the "Brickrock" script had to be translated into French and dubbed with French subtitles. Elliot Field, well-known Hollywood "voice," stars as Alvin Brickrock. Wilma and Fred Flintstone are played by Jean Vander Pyl and Alan Reed, Betty and Barney Rubble by Bea Benaderet and Mel Blanc.
Someone else hired at Hanna-Barbera in 1959 appeared in the cartoon mentioned above. It was Color Radio KFWB disc jockey Elliot Field. Elliot was hired as the voice of Blabber Mouse and appeared in the first four Snooper and Blabber cartoons (and provided incidental voices). However, he explained to me once he ended up in hospital for surgery and when he was fit again, Daws Butler had taken over the role. As you can see, he came back to the studio, but any further cartoon work was cut short by a radio career move to Detroit.

Elliot sent a note several days ago to let me know he’s still out there. He’s the last of the pre-1960 Hanna-Barbera voice actors kicking around (Jimmy Weldon wasn’t hired to be Yakky Doodle until late 1960). We wish Elliot good health and hope to hear from him again. His book about his time in ‘60s rock-jock radio, commercials and animation is still available.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Jumping With Jinks

The Huckleberry Hound Show was more than a few amusing cartoons. It was a full half-hour programme with all kind of things going on in between the cartoons, things that disappeared when the cartoons were later syndicated on their own.

The show, for a time in the early going, centred around a circus motif, which worked really well. Here are some frames from one of the pre-closings of the show, where Huck and the other characters are on a trampoline urging us to tune in again.

This scene features Mr. Jinks failing to catch the meeces. Notice how Jinks’ hand grows for emphasis sake; I’ve pointed out on the Tralfaz a few instances on the same thing being done in theatrical animation. The meeces are, naturally, self-satisfied, knowing they’ll win because Jinks is the bad guy and the bad guy always loses in cartoons.

Jinks has an awful lot of angles, doesn’t he? Even his tail hangs down at an angle instead of having an ‘s’ shaped bend. I don’t know who animated this but my wild guess is it’s someone different than whoever animated Huck (Phil Duncan?) earlier in the sequence.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Some Hanna-Barbera Publicity Art

The artists at Hanna-Barbera drew more than cartoons and comic strips. There was publicity art as well.

To the left, you can look at a really attractive drawing that was the cover of the TV sections of the Long Beach Independent-Press-Telegram from 1960. It isn’t promoting any of the cartoons (since Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw never appeared together back then). The caption refers to Fourth of July celebrations that were marked on various channels in the area. I wish I could tell you the artist.

Of course, there was art promoting the series as well that papers could use with accompanying articles. Below is one from 1959. In this case, there was no article. There was only a caption below it. This piece may have been in colour, judging by the shading in the photocopy.

The characters got together in a little logo that was printed on game boxes and elsewhere. In later years, they showed up on the final title card on the TV cartoons themselves. The Huck cast is from after 1961, when Yogi left and Hokey Wolf was added. The Flintstones cast is from 1964 when Hoppy was added to the cast in yet another publicity gimmick. This copy was with an article in a trade magazine. I’ve never understood why the women are posed with their left arm extended. If anyone has an idea, let me know.

We’ve posted other H-B publicity art elsewhere (there seems to have been all kinds of it); this is the last that’s sitting in our hard drive.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Hard Landing Huck

Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the early going displayed some of the design principles you’d find in animated TV commercials and theatrical shorts of the mid-to-late 1950s. Not as stylised as, say, an MGM cartoon from the studio’s last days in 1957, but still visually modern for their time.

I can’t clip together the full background from this cartoon-between-the-cartoons starring Huckleberry Hound, but here are a couple of frames. I really like how this patio is rendered. The chairs are transparent, the grass isn’t green and the table is not in real perspective. I’ll bet you this is the work of Fernando Montealegre. Note the anchor in the window.

Here, the house isn’t painted in. It’s a simple line-drawing with geometric shapes of colour. The foliage of the tree has no outline. I gather (please correct me if I’m wrong), that Monty cut out the shape of the greenery on a cel then used a sponge to daub the paint onto the background. I guess this style became passé but I think it’s pretty attractive.

Now onto character stuff.

A proud-looking Huck. Maybe he’s proud his swimming trunks can hold themselves on their own.

Whoever wrote this telegraphs the gag, at least if you’ve seen enough cartoons. Huck stops in mid-air and looks worried. Yeah, you know there’ll be no water in the pool.

If this were done a few years later, Huck would simply drop out of the frame, there’d be a camera shake followed by a cut to Huck prone on the cement. However, we get to see the impact.

And if this scene were animated a few years later, Huck would be rigid except for his muzzle. Here, his head changes direction and he gestures as he explains to us he’s lucky there was no water in the pool because he can’t swim. This looks like Ed Love’s work.

These mini-cartoons may not be grab-your-gut hilarious, but they’re pleasant and nice enough to look at and, for 20 seconds of TV animation, that’s good enough for me.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Not-Quite-Duckpin Duck

Daws Butler and Don Messick provided almost all of the voices for Hanna-Barbera cartoons during the first two years of the studio’s life. One notable exception was someone who provided a speciality voice—nightclub comedian Red Coffey or Coffee (he used both spellings through the 1950s and finally settled on the double-e ending).

Coffey found his way into cartoons when he was hired to voice a duckling for MGM’s Tom and Jerry series. His first cartoon was apparently Little Quacker, released to theatres at the start of 1950. Evidently Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera loved the pathetic duck character, as he flew over to H-B about a year after MGM shut down its cartoon operations and was cast in an early Yogi Bear cartoon, Slumber Party Smarty (1958), on the Huckleberry Hound Show. A few more H-B cartoon appearances followed. But when the duck went through a bit of a makeover and emerged as Yakky Doodle in 1961, Jimmy Weldon provided his voice (though Coffey voiced in him in a few of the mini-cartoons that aired during the Yogi Bear Show).

We cobbled together some information about Coffey in this post. We’ve got a side-bar on him, courtesy of this piece in the Los Angeles Times of April 26, 1959. He seems to be trying out jokes for his act more than anything.

A few people have written in over the years saying they worked with Coffey and his wife and he was a pleasant enough chap. He comes across that way in this story. Sorry the picture isn’t of better quality.

Red Coffee Bowls for Laughs and Strikes Up High Averages

There is hilarity in the bowling sport because of one of its participants. The participant is Red Coffee.
“As a little boy I took up the game. Now that I’m a grownup, the game is taking me.”
Coffee, a night club entertainer, averaged 184 at Van Nuys Bowl, 1856 at Tarzana and 187 at Kirkwoods in leagues this season. “I averaged best on the scales. For a penny a throw, I hit 235 every time.”
Coming back from a strike during practice at Monterey Park Lanes, he said, “I finally got the ball working, now I’m unemployed.”
‘Terrific Ball’
Coffee likes to talk about his game. “I throw such a terrific ball, the termites get nervous.”
Red is teamed with his songster Jerry Wallace and has played from here to Las Vegas to Buffalo, N.Y. “I take my bowling ball wherever I go. I went bowling with a girl in Detroit. She had a smile like the 7-10 split.”
Coffee, also an accomplished voice effects man for movie cartoons, can tell you about rough lane conditions he has been up against. “These alleys I played in Buffalo were so slick, Sonja Henie was settin’ pins. This pair I hit in Oshkosh were slow enough to make Step ‘N’ Fetch It look like Jesse Owens.”
Tossed 300
Red was born in Arkansas City, Kan., but grew up in Cushing, Okla., where he tossed a 300 game. “You got to watch out in Cushing. They have fast gutters there.”
Coffee, who invaded Southern France in a parachute during the war, likes pot game and tournament action. “I don’t win much. An ant with a double hernia carried away what I won in my last tournament.”
Coffee’s trademarks on a bowling lane are his tan baseball cap and hanging shirttail.

Coffey and his wife Karen formed a revue in the 1960s and took it on the road. You can read reviews from Variety from 1970 (left) and 1972 (right) and will notice that he pulled out his version of the duck voice. As best as I can tell, he only got screen credit at Hanna-Barbera for a Loopy de Loop cartoon he worked on.

Long-time readers here will know I’m not a fan of the duck character, but writers Mike Maltese and Tony Benedict did their best to tone down most of the things I don’t like about him. The duck voice talent is a different story, though I personally like Jimmy Weldon’s duck voice better than Coffey’s. All the voice talents in those early days at Hanna-Barbera deserve a bit of recognition today, and that includes 300-bowling comic Red Coffey.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Season Three For Huckleberry Hound

The Huckleberry Hound Show was in a bit of turmoil in the 1960-61 season, despite coming off a Emmy win earlier in the year. And you can blame Mr. Magoo.

Kellogg’s was looking for another half-hour cartoon show to sponsor in syndication; it already had the Huck show, Quick Draw McGraw and Woody Woodpecker running in the early evenings. The company’s ad agency, Leo Burnett, thought it had worked out a deal with Hank Saperstein for a Mr. Magoo series; Variety of August 3, 1960 intimated it had already been pitched to KGO-TV in San Francisco. But the deal collapsed. Saperstein’s UPA pulled out, complaining Burnett was interfering too much in the creative aspects of the show (Variety, Sept. 6, 1960).

Hanna-Barbera was ready. Kind of. It sold a half-hour Yogi Bear show to Kellogg’s, with the idea that a new “Wacko” wolf character would replace Yogi on the Huck series (Weekly Variety, Oct. 12, 1960). The problem was that complete Yogi Bear half-hours would have to be ready by late January. Hanna-Barbera couldn’t produce all the cartoons it needed in time. So, for a time, Yogi was doubling on the Huck show while “Wacko” (now “Hokey”) cartoons were being made to replace him. And some segments of the Yogi Bear Show were filled with Augie Doggie and Snooper and Blabber until enough Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle cartoons were ready.

That brings us to the production schedule for the final seasons of the Huckleberry Hound Show from the files of Leo Burnett, the ad agency representing Kellogg’s, which paid for the half-hour cartoon show. A document dated August 3, 1961 reveals six Yogi cartoons were printed and broadcast on the Huck show, then aired as reruns on the Yogi show. It also states that “Do or Diet,” “Biggest Showoff on Earth” and “Genial Genie” (marked with an asterisk below) were intended for use on the Huck show but not used. Indeed, “Genial Genie” was the cartoon that appeared on the debut half-hour of the Yogi Bear Show on the week of January 30, 1961. Four cartoons made after that (marked with a dagger below) were apparently scheduled for the Huck show but prints were only made when the Yogi show began to air.

Hokey Wolf didn’t appear until the end of March or beginning of April on the Huck show; sources conflict. This means any internet sources that talk about Hokey wolf cartoons appearing at the start of Huck’s third season in September 1960 are full of it. Hokey hadn’t even been invented yet. The same if you read claims the Yogi Bear Show started in September. As you can see below, the Hokey cartoons were begun after all the Hucks, Pixie and Dixies and Yogis were in production.

Like the second season, the “K” episode numbers are misleading. In the second, third and fourth seasons of the Huck show, old cartoons were interspersed with new ones. In other words, all the new productions didn’t air first. The cartoons don’t appear to have aired in the “K” episodes as listed, though they were apparently copyrighted that way.

You’ll notice the names of several new animators brought in to handle the large production boost. My guess is some worked on a freelance basis (Don Williams, for example); it seems to me some of these people were either animating on the Magoo and Dick Tracy TV cartoons or the TV Popeyes around this time. I haven’t really examined it closely.

Artie Davis appears as an animator toward the end of the list after leaving Warner Bros. in a dispute over a promise to direct. I don’t have an accurate list of Hokey Wolf animators; versions of the cartoons available are without credits. I can recognise a few of the animators such as Don Williams, a really tame George Nicholas and Ken Muse, but have left off the names. Carlo Vinci was engaged elsewhere than the Huck show with the exception of one Yogi Bear cartoon.

E-143 has the distinction of being the last production which used the Capitol Hi-Q and Langlois Filmusic libraries (it opens with my favourite Jack Shaindlin cue, “Toboggan Run”). The last Huck on the list, “Cluck and Dagger,” all the Hokeys and the cartoons made for airing in the 1961-62 TV season had background cues supplied by Hoyt Curtin.

Some of the best Huck cartoons came out of this season. “Spud Dud,” “Science Friction” and “The Unmasked Avenger” with Huck as the Purple Pumpernickel are among my favourites. Yogi Bear’s “Oinks and Boinks” is a pretty funny send-up of the Three Little Pigs, reminiscent of Warren Foster’s Bugs Bunny/Three Pigs cartoon at Warners. And even Hokey Wolf has some good bits (Bea Benaderet supplies voices in one cartoon). Hokey and Ding-a-ling get arrested in ancient times in “Poached Yeggs” and are threatened with death. Ding turns to the camera and says “And they call this Merrie olde England.”

E-106 Oinks and Boinks (K-040) Yogi/Patterson
E-107 Booby Trapped Bear (K-041) Yogi/Marshall
E-108 Spud Dud (K-040) Huck/Nicholas
E-109 High Jinks (K-043) P&D/Lundy
E-110 Legion Bound Hound (K-041) Huck/Muse
E-111 Price For Mice (K-041) P&D/Muse
E-112 Gleesome Threesome (K-042) Yogi/Vinci
E-113 Science Friction (K-042) Huck/Love
E-114 Plutocrat Cat (K-042) P&D/Marshall
E-115 A Bear Pair (K-043) Yogi/Muse
E-116 Pied Piper Pipe (K-040) P&D/Patterson
E-117 Spy Guy (K-044) Yogi/Love
E-118 Nuts Over Mutts (K-044) Huck/Love
E-119 Woo For Two (K-045) P&D/Carr
E-120 Knight School (K-043) Huck/Marshall
E-121 Huck Hound’s Tale (K-045) Huck/Love
E-122 Party Peeper Jinks (K-044) P&D/Lundy
E-123 Do or Diet (K-045) Yogi/deMattia
E-124 The Unmasked Avenger (K-046) Huck/Williams
E-125 A Wise Quack (K-046) P&D/Carr
*E-126 Bears and Bees (K-046) Yogi/Lokey
E-127 Missile Bound Cat (K-048) P&D/Marshall
*E-128 Biggest Show-Off on Earth (K-047) Yogi/deMattia
E-129 Hillbilly Huck (K-048) Huck/Lokey
*E-130 Genial Genie (K-048) Yogi/Lundy
E-131 Kind To Meeces Week (K-047) P&D/Lokey
E-132 Fast Gun Huck (K-047) Huck/Case
E-133 Cub Scout Boo Boo (K-049) Yogi/Carr
E-134 Home Sweet Jellystone (K-050) Yogi/Case
E-135 Crew Cat (K-049) P&D/Case
E-136 Astro-Nut Huck (K-051) Huck/Marshall
E-137 Love Bugged Bear (K-051) Yogi/Carr
E-138 Huck and Ladder (K-050) Huck/Lokey
E-139 Jinxed Jinks (K-050) P&D/Davis
E-140 Lawman Huck (K-048) Huck/Carr
E-141 Light-Headed Cat (K-051) P&D/Marshall
E-142 Bareface Disguise (K-052) Yogi/Davis
E-143 Mouse For Rent (K-052) P&D/Carr
E-144 Cluck and Dagger (K-052) Huck/Davis
E-145 Tricks and Treats (W-1) Hokey/Patterson
E-146 Hokey Dokey (W-2) Hokey
E-147 Lamb-Basted Wolf (W-5) Hokey
E-148 Which Witch is Which (W-3) Hokey/Nicholas
E-149 Pick a Chick (W-4) Hokey
E-150 Robot Plot (W-7) Hokey
E-151 Boobs in the Woods (W-8) Hokey
E-152 Castle Hassle (W-6) Hokey
E-153 Booty on the Bounty (W-13) Hokey
E-154 Hokey in the Pokey (W-11) Hokey/Patterson
E-155 Who’s Zoo (W-9) Hokey
E-156 Dogged Sheep Dog (W-10) Hokey
E-157 Too Much to Bear (W-16) Hokey/Muse
E-158 Movies Are Bitter Than Ever (W-12) Hokey
E-159 Poached Yeggs (W-14) Hokey
E-160 Hokey cartoon for 1961-62 season.
E-161 Rushing Wolf Hound (W-15) Hokey/Patterson
E-162 The Glass Sneaker (W-18) Hokey
E-163 Indian Giver (W-19) Hokey
E-164 Chock Full Chuck Wagon (W-17) Hokey/Muse
E-165 Bring ‘Em Back a Live One (W-21) Hokey
E-166 A Star is Bored (W-23) Hokey/Love
E-167 Hokey cartoon for 1961-62 season.
E-168 West of the Pesos (W-24) Hokey