Showing posts with label Ruff and Reddy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ruff and Reddy. Show all posts

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hey There, It's Not Ruff and Reddy

A feature film starting Ruff and Reddy?

The idea was actually kicking around Hanna-Barbera almost immediately after the pair made their debut on NBC in December 1957. The revelation was made in a story in Daily Variety of January 20, 1958 and repeated virtually verbatim in Weekly Variety two days later.

We won’t reprint the full article, just the portion that deals with the cartoon studio. It’s interesting seeing in the earliest stories about the studio in Variety that George Sidney was the one who got the publicity. Sidney was H-B Enterprises’ first president. More importantly, he had been president of the Directors Guild of America and was known for live action films. Once Huckleberry Hound took off in popularity in late 1958, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decided to make their names known in the popular press. Sidney kept his chunk of shares in the company until it was sold to Taft Broadcasting in the ‘60s.

This version of the story comes from Weekly Variety, as it mentions some of the studio’s commercial clients.

[Studio] Employs 25, Expanding
After less than eight months of operation, H& B Productions, cartoonery formed by George Sidney in partnership with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, is expanding its operations. Hanna and Barbera formerly produced the Tom and Jerry Animated cartoons for Metro. H& B Productions staff now numbers 25, drawn from the Metro cartoonery when the Culver lot ended animation.
Sidney, who is prexy of the firm, reported that he will use a cartoon sequence in "Pepe," his upcoming Columbia film starring Cantinflas. Sequence will be inserted along lines of animated action used in Metro's "Anchors Aweigh," which Sidney directed.
H& B now is doing commercials for Metro, as well as for Schlitz, S & H Green Stamps, Junket and others. In addition, it is doing a program of cartoons for Screen Gems, "The Ruff and Reddy Show," which started televising five weeks ago over NBC-TV every Saturday morning, 9-9:30 a. m., under sponsorship of General Foods. Total of 52 segments have been completed for SG. While H-B deals with SG includes these 52 subjects only, talks already have started with Columbia subsid for a further series. Outfit last week launched production on 78 segments for a new program.
The "Ruff and Ready" series was made in color, according to Sidney, with a view to linking a number of segments together for theatrical release in Europe later as a cartoon feature. Feature cartoon production already is being considered by the three partners, who are weighing the possibilities of three different properties. One of these will be started within the next two to three months, he declared, and it's expected [the] company will have this initial feature ready for release in early 1960. Industrial and medical cartoons films likewise are planned, Sidney stated.

52 segments of “Ruff and Reddy” could have been easily put together into a feature. Each cartoon had roughly 2½ minutes of animation, if you deleted the titles and the scene-setter re-used from the previous cartoon.

For whatever reason, the studio abandoned the idea of a Ruff and Reddy feature. But it came up with another one during yet another expansion. The headline in Daily Variety of October 20, 1960 reads “HANNA-BARBERA DOUBLES PROD.—THEATRICAL AS WELL AS TV CARTOONS.” The article on the studio is a lengthy one, and reveals a reorganisation of staff, a 100% increase in its production budget, plans to buy two acres to build a new studio, and two new syndicated series of five minute cartoons, one starring Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har and the other starring Hairbrain Hare and Dum Dum (no Touché Turtle yet). But the story also contained news of a feature film as well as the tacit admission that Huckleberry Hound was no longer the studio’s top star.

Yogi Feature Star
Company currently is in production on a "Yogi Bear" teleseries, bringing the character out of the "Huckleberry Hound" teleseries. "Yogi" also will be the star of H-B's first feature-length film, currently being written by Barbera and Warren Foster and being aimed for release next summer by Columbia.

As you know, the Yogi feature didn’t come out in 1960. Variety tracked its progress, or non-progress as was the case. It was still in the company’s plans according to two feature stories on animation in May 1961 and mentioned as in the planning stages in a couple of stories in 1962 (a second feature besides Yogi “not based on one of their vidcartoons” was revealed in the edition of November 29, 1961). Finally, there was some movement in early 1963 as Ray Gilbert was hired to write songs for it (Daily Variety, March 11). Hanna and Barbera had ambitions for it; the May 23rd Weekly Variety reported Ann-Margret, Dean Martin and Eddie Fisher were to supply voices.

The movie was put into production on August 7, 1963 with a staff of 120 working on it under the title “Whistle Your Way Back Home.” Someone must have realised the title was too vague and really poor marketing. If you’re going to have a cartoon starring Yogi Bear, put his name in the title. So by December 1963 it was known as “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear.”

Interestingly, a syndicated newspaper article from 1966 plugging the Flintstones feature revealed “Hey There” hadn’t made money at that point. And it also quoted Bill Hanna as saying the Ruff and Reddy cartoons the studio had made starting almost nine years earlier had just made back their negative costs. It is any wonder, then, why the studio took a pass at turning the characters into feature film stars.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fun With Huck

All the characters on the Huckleberry Hound show, even minor ones like everyone’s favourite dog Yowp, got a marketing push soon after the programme hit the air in 1958. Affable Huck was the bread-winner until he was usurped by the more aggressive Yogi Bear. Let’s peer around the internet and borrow some snapshots of some of the items a Huck fan 50-plus years ago might have wanted to get their mitts on. You can click on each picture to enlarge it.

Here’s a Huckleberry Hound Cartoon Kit from Colorforms, made in 1960. Colorforms is still around; you can check out their web site HERE if you want to read the history of the company. Other than the meece, the characters on the cover look like they were modified from Bick’s publicity or model sheets. It’s a shame the swimming hole scene wasn’t designed by one of H-B’s background artists of the day. Their work was more attractive than what Colorforms buyers got.

The Huck Hound Fan Club was still going in 1961 when this offer was made to kids (1961-62 was the last season new Huck cartoons were made). Check out more fan clubs stuff at THIS post.

Apparently Dell was more than just a comic book company. It was in the toy business, too. This Huck toy is six inches tall and was advertised in a Chip ‘n’ Dale comic with a cover date of June 1960

I suppose kids don’t play Cowboys and Indians any more. Well, they did when Harvell-Kilgore Sales Corp. of Bolivar, Tennessee made this in the 1960s. In this case, though, the kids might play Huck and Dirty Dalton. Wilma, don’t leave that gun around for Pebbles to play with!

Yeah, I know, this has nothing to do with Huck, other than to point out Hanna-Barbera was marketing characters before the Huck show went on the air. Transogram had a number of erasable picture games in the late ‘50s, including Mickey Mouse and Rin Tin Tin. This is from 1958. Professor Gizmo, Crossbones Jones, a Muni-Mula robot, the pirate parrot (I can’t remember if he had a name in the series) and Pinky the elephant are included on the cover. Transogram had some other games we’ve posted here before, including a Yogi ring-toss and a Snagglepuss Picnic board game featuring that fine cartoon dog Yowp in one of his last appearances.

If anyone has more information about these toys, please leave a note in the comment section.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Ruff and Reddy's Birthday

“Ruff and Reddy” isn’t among my favourite cartoon series, but it did start the Hanna-Barbera empire and it debuted on tomorrow’s date in 1957, so we’ll mark the anniversary with a short post.

If you haven’t read the background before, you can go to this blog post. To boil it down, H-B Enterprises signed a deal with NBC to broadcast its new made-for-TV cartoons, which ran alongside old Columbia/Screen Gems theatrical cartoons (due to H-B’s bankrolling by Screen Gems), with a human host introducing everything.

The cartoons were wisely filmed in colour, though NBC originally broadcast them in black and white, like almost all its programming in 1957. When did the network begin to show them in colour? The answer’s in a column by J. Don Schlaerth in the Buffalo Courier-Express of June 27, 1959. I presume he was a local columnist.

COLOR SHOWS — NBC-TV will add two new color shows to its schedule today. "Buffalo Bob" Smith and his "Howdy Doody" show will be given the tinted treatment starting at 10 this morning on Ch. 2. The "Ruff and Reddy Show" cartoon series also will be in color following at 10:30. . . . The Trendex rating service indicates that the audience of color television programs in color TV equipped homes is twice as large as the audience in homes with black and white sets. The survey was conducted in five major cities.
Pressure groups basically screwed up kids cartoons shows, but that wasn’t for a few more years yet. Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the ‘50s received nothing but plaudits. “Ruff and Reddy” was among them. Here’s the pertinent part of a squib from the Lockport Union-Sun and Journal of December 3, 1959:
PTA Turns Critical Gaze On TV
The National Parent - Teacher, the official publication of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, in its new program on TV evaluations, turned its critical gaze on nine more continuing shows for children and adults. The magazine's official viewers generally beamed on "Here's Geraldine" (ABC) and "Ruff and Reddy" (NBC), while taking a much dimmer view of the CBS "Heckle and Jeckle" and ''Lunchtime Little Theater" (independent) as adequate fare for children.
Despite that, NBC took “Ruff and Reddy” off the air less than a year later. Whether it was contractual, I don’t know. However, the network brought it back. Broadcasting magazine of July 2, 1962 reported:
'Ruff and Reddy' returns
The Ruff and Reddy Show, a former NBC –TV morning children's show, is returning to the network as a color series Saturday, Sept. 29. It replaces Pip the Piper in the 9:30 -10 a.m. time -spot. Previously shown on NBC from December 1957- October 1960, the Ruff and Reddy Show is a Hanna -Barbera cartoon production, distributed by Screen Gems. It will be sponsored by Marx Toys, New York, through Ted Bates; Horsman Dolls, Columbia, S. C., through Manchester Organizations, and Selchow & Richter Games, New York, through Doner- Harrison.
To show you how times have changed, NBC offered no network service on Saturday mornings until “Ruff and Reddy” aired and ABC didn’t sign on until 10:30.

“Ruff and Reddy” left the network again after September 26, 1964, replaced with “Hector Heathcote.” By the following March 15th, Screen Gems was offering all 156 “Ruff and Reddy” cartoons (along with 156 Lippy the Lion/Touché Turtle/Wally Gator) in syndication. Interestingly, Broadcasting magazine reported in a September 20, 1965 story on syndicated shows:
Robert Seidelman, vice president for syndication for SG [Screen Gems], conceded that demand by local stations is high, but said the company has no immediate plans for producing first -run syndicated series in color because of economic considerations.
That shows you how things had changed. Hanna-Barbera built its name on syndication with “The Huckleberry Hound Show.” But most of its syndicated deals up to 1965 had involved a co-sponsor, Kellogg’s on the Huck-Quick Draw-Yogi shows and Ideal Toys with “Magilla Gorilla” and “Peter Potamus.” Screen Gems apparently decided for, or was told by, Hanna-Barbera that even joint deals such those couldn’t bring in the necessary cash to make TV cartoons profitable. Ironic, considering H-B got into the business because it could produce cartoons cheaply enough for television.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Storyboard Fun and Pushing Pebbles

Storyboards, model sheets and other things involved in the production of cartoons weren’t designed for fans to see, but they’re always fun to look at. And it’s fortunate these kinds of things were saved and make it into the public view.

If you’ve been on Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research site (see the blog-roll to the right), you’ll know an auction site in Beverly Hills will be dispensing art from a number of cartoon studios toward the end of the month. Yes, there’s a representation of Hanna-Barbera material that collectors can snap up.

Flintstones fans will recognise these drawings. “The Swimming Pool” was the third episode aired, but part of it was based on an earlier animated demo reel that Joe Barbera shopped around to prospective advertisers. Barbera signed some of these panels—evidently long after they were made, much like he and Bill Hanna did with a pile of studio art—but I’ve always been under the impression Dan Gordon did the original storyboard. I don’t have a copy of Barbera’s book handy to see if he mentions it. Mark Kausler has helpfully pointed out a Barbera story sketch before and the letter “A” is written differently than it is here.

Here’s Salt Water Daffy with the aquarium seal from “Ruff and Reddy.” The storyline on this adventure features Charlie Shows going whacko with rhyming titles like “No Hope For a Dope on a Periscope” (which is where these drawings were used). What’s more interesting than the drawings is the note accompanying the notation accompanying them on the auction house’s website.

Fifteen pages of original storyboards ( four panels per page) by John Freeman for the "Rescue in the Deep Blue" Episode which ran on April 5, 1958. Also included in the lot, on HB Enterprises paper, are 19 pages of hand written dialogue for the same episode.

The reference to John Freeman is a real surprise to me. Freeman was a story director on some Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the early ‘60s but I had no idea he was at the studio this early. Freeman had been at Disney for many years and left Walt in the mid-‘50s to work at TV Spots’ commercial operation in San Francisco (according to his obit in a union newsletter). I always thought Dan Gordon was the studio’s storyboard man from the start but, unfortunately, there are no credits on any of the “Ruff and Reddy” episodes.

This item may be the most interesting of the lot, and comes from the collection of animator and teacher David Pruiksma who, incidentally, owns cats named ‘Ruff’ and ‘Reddy.’ I’ll let the auction web site describe this great item which someone had the foresight to save.

"Flintstone Baby Contest" Marketing Kits Lot of 2 (Hanna-Barbera, 1962-63). When Wilma gave birth to Pebbles, it was a television historic moment. Prior to the day, Hanna-Barbera conducted a massive countrywide blitz to hype the sacred day. They sent out to all major television affiliates two comprehensive marketing campaign packages. One was to be used prior to January 25th and was labeled in red, the second box was labeled in blue, and read "To be used after January 25th network episode "The Surprise." "Guess the weight," "guess the sex," and "guess the name" all played into the marketing efforts. These two complete marketing kits contain scripts, film, ad slicks, glass slides, and marketing notes.

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them. And click HERE for Jerry’s link to the auction.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ruff, Reddy and a Cat on a Stick

Most people think of “Ruff and Reddy” in purely historical terms. The show comes up when the origins of the Hanna-Barbera studio are reviewed. Few people really consider it to have entertainment value. I don’t even remember watching it as a kid in the early ‘60s and I saw just about any cartoon that was on TV. Bugs and Daffy were funny. Huck and Quick Draw were funny. Ruff and Reddy weren’t. I don’t even find them likeable, especially Reddy. But they launched the H-B empire, and that’s their claim to fame.

NBC worked out a five-year deal in 1957 to air the Ruff and Reddy cartoons, which were originally part of a Saturday morning, half-hour package that also contained old theatrical shorts from the Screen Gems (Columbia) studio, woven together by a live action host and his puppets. It lasted three years. Then NBC brought back the Ruff and Reddy cartoons on September 29, 1962 for another two seasons. The format was changed. “Lo the Poor Buffal” and other lame Columbia shorts were retired and Ruff and Reddy’s adventures were tuned in on a screen by a host named Captain Bob, who interacted with puppets between the cartoons. It aired out of New York City. You can read more on Ron Kurer’s fine site HERE.

Someone on-line has posted a dub of a black-and-white print of the Captain Bob version of the show that was broadcast May 4, 1963. The best part may be the animated commercials for Fruit Stripe gum which will bring back memories to those of us of a certain age. The production values are ultra-low by network standards. It sounds like someone borrowed the Wurlitzer organ used on “Concentration” (which also aired out of NBC New York) and the cat drawing that’s moved across the set on a bobbing stick is so cheesy it’s funny. You can even hear what sounds like someone leaning back in a metal chair while the announcer is opening the show.

The Ruff and Reddy adventure that’s shown comes from the first season (1957-58) and is from Series ‘C’, “Westward Ho Ho Ho.” I think the animation is by Carlo Vinci. It features music from the Capitol Hi-Q ‘D’ series and some of it never appeared in any other Hanna-Barbera series. And you can catch a personal favourite, TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT, when the sheep appear in the first cartoon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ruff and Reddy Story Drawings

I’m not a big fan of Ruff and Reddy, but I am a fan of old storyboards. And some story panels from a couple of Ruff and Reddy episodes have showed up on line. I suspect they’re the work of Dan Gordon, who did story sketches for Hanna-Barbera for the first two years (and then some) of the studio’s life. They’re pretty attractive.

I didn’t make notes, but I think these came from the Van Eaton Gallery, which sells all kinds of animation art.

Here’s a layout drawing of Olaf, the little Viking boy who appeared in the second season.

Joe Barbera must have been hot for scripts with little blond boys that year. The cave kid Ubble Ubble was also introduced that season.

As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of the series so I can’t tell you which cartoon in the Pinky adventure this is from. I can tell you it was used in newspaper publicity art. And that Reddy is fatter than he should be.

One of the reasons Ruff and Reddy never appealed much to me as a kid is that it wasn’t funny like Huck or Quick Draw. I couldn’t get into the characters. And it really seems aimed at younger kids; when you’re exposed to Warners and Fleischer cartoons and adult sitcoms as a child, who wants dull kid stuff? Here’s a dialogue sheet, apparently one used by Don Messick. All the lines that are changed are Messick’s.

Someone had the sense to cross out material that made the narration seem like it was talking down to kids even more. Wisely, Barbera, Gordon and writer Charlie Shows decided the studio’s next venture, The Huckleberry Hound Show, may have been in what was a kids’ timeslot in the network radio days, but went for a general audience instead. Barbera’s stories and Shows’ dialogue were more hit than miss, and it was Huck, not Ruff and Reddy, that gave the studio its initial fame.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bill and Joe and Tom and Jerry and Ruff and Reddy

This post isn’t intended to be a history of the start-up of the Hanna-Barbera studio or Ruff and Reddy, let alone a definitive one. Such would require more time to flesh out than I’m prepared to spend, and more space one would tolerate for a simple blog post. And Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera both wrote books giving their recollections of how it happened anyway.

Hanna bragged about being an unequivocal Hugh Harman-Rudy Ising loyalist, sticking with them when they left Leon Schlesinger in 1933 for half-starvation and then MGM—until Fred Quimby made him an offer four years later and he walked out on them. Barbera was enticed by Quimby through a couple of intermediaries to forsake Paul Terry’s studio in New York and come to MGM. The two teamed up as directors (as Barbera remembered it, “I said to Bill: ‘Why don't we try a cartoon of our own?’”) and came up with the first Tom and Jerry cartoon Puss Gets the Boot, released in February 1940. Neither Hanna nor Barbera are credited but, remarkably, their identities were revealed in an Associated Press story less than three months after the cartoon was released. The only version I’ve found has no byline.

Introduce New Cartoon Technique
Hollywood. May 4—(AP)—A very entertaining cartoon making the making the rounds deserves some belated attention. It’s [sic] title is “Puss Gets the Boot.”
We here get so accustomed to seeing the “credits” at the beginning of pictures, looking for names of neighbors and fellows we have met, that when there are no names we are curious and a little disappointed.
The credits for “Puss” are conspicuous by their absence. At the beginning, it says a man named Ising produced the picture for M.G.M., but more than one person wondered who conceived the characters and the plot and directed the story. I was one. And, in addition, told it with such simplicity that it will not confuse children—nor bore adults.
The answer is a pair of young fellows Joe Barbera, who used to work in a bank in New York, and Bill Hanna, who started his film career as a janitor in a cartoon studio the day after he got out of high school.
From now on, because Puss is so good, Joe and Bill are a team of producers and they will have their names in large letters on every moving picture they make.

Office politics weren’t in short supply at the MGM cartoon studio in the late ‘30s and they waft from this story. Ising and Hugh Harman were re-hired by MGM only as a last resort after being fired and it seems clear Fred Quimby decided, or was told, to line up some potential replacements as soon as he could. This newspaper story would certainly be a slap in the face to Ising and a tacit but public message that a new, rising team had arrived—and was responsible for “his” work.

Seven Oscars and 14 Academy Award nominations later, things couldn’t have looked better for Hanna and Barbera. Or the MGM cartoon studio. From Boxoffice magazine of June 4, 1955:

MGM to Double Output of Cartoon Department
HOLLYWOOD—Concurrent with its projected upsurge in feature film production, MGM is doubling the output and personnel of its cartoon department and henceforth will turn out 18 pen-and-ink subjects annually, all in CinemaScope and Technicolor.
Hal Elias, associated for 18 years with the production and distribution of MGM short subjects, has been upped to manager of the cartoon division, headed by Fred Quimby, who is leaving on an extended vacation.
At the same time Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, writer-director team on the “Tom and Jerry” series, were promoted to full producer status and will supervise all of the 18 planned cartoons. Nine will be in the “Tom and Jerry” group, six will star “Droopy” and the balance will be adapted from published works.

According to Barbera’s autobiography, Quimby made his vacation permanent after announcing his retirement to the studio staff in early 1956.

But MGM was in turmoil. Trade papers reveal a merry-go-round of top-level executive changes and shareholder unrest. And then came a phone call to Hal Elias. At least, that’s how Bill and Joe remember it. Boxoffice explains what happened in its issue of December 22, 1956:

MGM Halts Production Of Cartoons Temporarily
While much of the industry’s limelight during recent weeks has been directed toward Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, its executive personnel and its future program, Leo’s cartoon department is getting set for a complete shutdown—not because the mighty Metro is going to stop the production of animated subjects, but due to the fact that the studio reportedly has a two-year backlog of shorties, and the front office brass considers that a halt should be called while some of this finished celluloid is absorbed by the market.

Barbera once mentioned another reason; old MGM cartoons could be re-released (and had been since November 1947) and make the studio 90% of the profits of new cartoons, with only the cost of printing and distribution to worry about. MGM had been booking a compilation of shorts (live action and animated) called the Tom and Jerry Cartoon Festival only several months earlier, complete with promotional manual for theatre owners.

So Hanna and Barbera got together and formed their own company. And they either went to, or got an offer from, the man who directed Anchor’s Aweigh (1945), for which Hanna and Barbera supplied animation of Jerry dancing with Gene Kelly. From Boxoffice of July 13, 1957:

George Sidney Organizes Cartoon Production Firm
Columbia executive producer George Sidney has announced plans to branch out into the production of cartoons with the formation of H.B. Enterprises, Inc., under which banner he will make feature cartoon films for theatrical consumption as well as shorter television and industry products.
Associated with Sidney in the organization are former MGM cartoon toppers William Hanna and Joe Barbera, who created, wrote and directed all the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons.
The new project has no connection with George Sidney Productions, releasing through Columbia and which already has made “Jeanne Eagels” and “Pal Joey.”

Sidney’s percentage of the action was not disclosed.

So we have six and a half months between the time of the announced shutdown of the MGM cartoon studio and the formation of H-B Enterprises. When did Ruff and Reddy get created? Joe Barbera recalled in his interview with the Archive of American Television:

We went over, finally, to Screen Gems. In the meantime, I had sat home one time and I did a story, I boarded it, and I created a dog and a cat, called ‘em Ruff and Reddy. And my daughter Jayne who’s 12 years old, she put the color on them.

Barbera created it? It just may be the idea germinated months before the MGM announcement and Joe Barbera didn’t have a thing to do with it.

Keith Scott’s wonderful book The Moose That Roared reveals that Bill Hanna entered into a partnership with MGM’s other cartoon director—Mike Lah—in a company called Shield Productions. As a side note, a third partner was MGM background artist Don Driscoll, a buddy of Ed Benedict’s who had been working on CinemaScope remakes of old Tex Avery cartoons. Scott’s book says Shield was working on resurrecting the first real made-for-TV cartoon, Crusader Rabbit. But there was more than that. Shields had several shows in production. Guess what one of them was? The U.S Government Catalog of Copyright Entries shows the following:

Ruff and Reddy, 2 v. © Shield Productions, Inc.; 25May56; A238905-238906.

But these weren’t actual cartoons. What was copyrighted was two volumes in book form. So were these synopses of cartoons? Unless someone actually goes through the records, we won’t know. What is clear is the idea of Ruff and Reddy—and all we have is the name and nothing else—was in Bill Hanna’s head before he found out the MGM studio was closing and that it was tied in with a cartoon house separate and apart from Joe Barbera.

Shield ran into trouble over the rights to Crusader Rabbit when the company was three months into production. That apparently ended Shield Productions. But it didn’t end Ruff and Reddy, which Hanna used to kick off his new company with Barbara. Dick Bickenbach told historian Mike Barrier that he roughed out the animation for the titles of the show the last two days he was at MGM, though no date or even month is revealed.

So, we’re back at July 1957. Days after Sidney came on board, he brokered a deal with Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures’ TV arm. The meeting resulted in an option for five, five-minute cartoons at $2,700 apiece for the first two, $2,800 each for the second two and $3,000 for the last one. And somewhere on the way, Columbia’s Harry Cohn got a chunk of the company (20% as Joe Barbera remembered it).

With capital in hand, H-B Enterprises moved into the old Chaplin studio on Highland Avenue. Then, according to Barbera’s book, Cohn mistook a pencil test for a real cartoon and ordered Mitchell to stop production for good. But Barbera goes on to say Roger Muir, the producer of The Howdy Doody Show at NBC in New York,

Heard about ‘Ruff and Reddy’ [Barbera doesn’t disclose how] and wanted us to use the cartoons much as we had originally planned—as bookends [on a new puppet show] between which hoary old theatricals would run. Muir’s offer kept us alive, and Screen Gems went ahead with the deal. Now we had to swing into production full tilt.

But the Saturday Evening Post of December 2, 1961 has a far more lacklustre version in an article on the studio:

Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures TV subsidiary, gambled $10,000 to see some sample cartoons about a dim-witted dog named Ruff and a frisky cat named Reddy. Almost immediately Screen Gems sold the samples to NBC as a series and Hanna-Barbara Productions was in business.

It’s uncanny how all contemporary stories about the studio speak of instant success, while Barbera’s recollections later in life feature a multitude of tales about a studio and characters being rescued at the last minute from more melodramatic endings than Penelope Pitstop.

Whatever the case, the NBC deal was done by early-ish November, when newspapers and trade publications started mentioning the show. From Oscar Godbout’s Hollywood news in the New York Times of November 11:

It looks as though N. B. C.’s “Gumby” show on Saturday morning may be supplanted by a pair of space-traveling animals. The network has purchased a new cartoon series, “Ruff and Reddy,”—a cat and a dog—from Screen Gems. The four-minute films will form part of a half-hour children’s program. The animated films depicting the adventures of the characters on the “Aluminum Planet of Muni-mula,” will be seen beginning next month. Each comprised of “Ruff and Reddy” installments and two first-run cartoons from the Columbia Pictures studio film library.

A Billboard story out of New York on November 18 mentioned a start date of Saturday, December 21 but the first Ruff and Reddy aired the Saturday before (December 14th), 10:30 a.m. in the East, 9:30 a.m. in the central states and 9 a.m. on the West Coast, though, if TV listings are to be believed, KRCA in Los Angeles ran something else and didn’t air the show until the 21st. The Billboard story called the studio “B&H Productions” and one newspaper referred to “Fred Hanna and Joe Barber.”

There were 12 adventures in all, each in 13 parts running about 3½ minutes. I’m loath to copy what fill-in-your-own-blank internet sites say about when each aired, but it appears the cartoons aired in first-run over the course of three seasons. They were copyrighted as follows:

September 15, 1957 (H-B Enterprises): Series ‘A’, Planet Pirates; Series ‘B’, Pinky the Pint-Sized Pachyderm; Series ‘C’, Westward Ho Ho Ho; Series ‘D’, Treasure of Doubloon Lagoon; Series ‘F’, Egg Yeggs; Series ‘G’, Scary Tale of a Canyon Trail.
September 15, 1958 (H-B Enterprises): Series ‘H’, Fantastic Phantom; Series ‘I’, Missile Fizzle; Series ‘L’, Dizzy Deputies; Series ‘M’, Spooky Meeting at Spooky Rock.
September 15, 1959 (Hanna-Barbera Productions): Series ‘N’, Sky High Guys; Series ‘O’, Misguided Missile.

There were no series ‘E’, ‘J’ and ‘K’. ‘E’ was used for Pixie and Dixie production numbers, ‘J’ for cartoons in the Quick Draw show and ‘K’ for the Huckleberry Hound half-hours.

Huck debuted in 1958 and Quick Draw in 1959, so it appears Ruff and Reddy was still in production when those two series were being animated. Quite a load, considering Loopy De Loop first appeared in theatres in fall of 1959.

The only credits I’ve ever seen on the cartoons are Hanna’s and Barbera’s.

Both Bill and Joe told how they hired many, or most, of the people who worked with them at MGM. That’s not quite the case. Credited artists at Metro in the last year were Lew Marshall, Ken Muse, Jim Escalante, Carlo Vinci, Irv Spence, Bill Schipek, Ken Southworth, Herman Cohen, Dick Bickenbach, Bob Gentle, Fernando Montealegre, Roberta Greutert, Don Driscoll (who remade backgrounds from old Avery cartoons for CinemaScope) and Ed Benedict, along with director Mike Lah. Escalante, Spence, Southworth, Cohen and Driscoll seem to have moved on. It’s unclear whether Schipek was with H-B Enterprises at the start. Lah fit in some animation and layouts for the new studio while working at Quartet. Of course, none of the uncredited assistant animators (Lefty Callahan, Joe Finck and a chap named Jerry Eisenberg among them) were needed. But uncredited background artist Art Lozzi was found a place. Brightman carried on supplying material for Walter Lantz cartoons. There was no expensive orchestra; Scott Bradley’s services were replaced by a sound cutter working with production library music. And Barbera recalled sound and camera work was originally sub-contracted. A random viewing of a handful of the cartoons in the first season shows some familiar artists at work—Vinci, Muse, Lah and Benedict among them. Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon worked on the first two Ruff and Reddy seasons, but whether they were responsible for the two adventures in the 1959 season (26 cartoons in all), or Warren Foster and Mike Maltese were (they were writing the other H-B cartoons that season) isn’t known. And it’s well-known that Daws Butler and Don Messick, who had freelanced at MGM, did all the voices on the new series.

There’s one puzzling thing in all this. Hanna’s book relates “NBC signed up to a five-year contract to produce and develop additional (italics mine) cartoon series for television,” presumably as a result of Ruff and Reddy. But what happened? The studio did nothing of the kind. Within that five year period, it created three half-hour shows for Kellogg’s (Huck, Quick Draw, Yogi), another set of cartoons for syndication (Lippy the Lion, Touché Turtle, Wally Gator) and three prime-time half-hours for ABC (Flintstones, Top Cat, Jetsons). What about the deal with NBC? Joe Barbera’s later books and interviews are completely silent on it. Steven H. Scheuer, in a syndicated column from May 11, 1958, mentions “NBC has a ten-year option on Ruff ‘N Reddy and evidently plans to continue running the show on Saturday morning” but nothing at all about that five-year contract. I’ve not researched contemporary trade publications to see if it was mentioned. It’s hard to believe Hanna was mistaken. It’s easier to believe something fell apart, the deal was torn up and Barbera couldn’t figure out how to spin this into a good-publicity cliff-hanger so he simply ignored talking about it. In any case, it’s something for historical diggers to solve.

Ruff and Reddy is not a great show. Shows goes overboard with his cheesy rhyming couplets and titles in his coy attempt to be amusing. It’s a far cry from the smart-ass dialogue Warners cartoons that smart kids could watch the same morning. Reddy is an ignorant blow-hard far too impressed with himself and who thinks fists solve anything. Audiences are supposed to cheer for that? Ruff seems to spend most cartoons either running from something or saying “Reddy’s in trouble!”; a co-star should have a bit more to him than unwavering earnestness. And why is the cat named ‘Ruff’? Wouldn’t it make more sense for that to be the dog’s name?

Elements of Ruff and Reddy were borrowed by Hanna and Barbera for later cartoons, mainly some secondary character designs and Reddy’s North Carolina hound-dog voice (Daws Butler made Huck sound a little more laconic so the two don’t quite sound the same). But Ruff and Reddy’s true accomplishment was it sparked the Hanna-Barbera empire. And, for that, it deserves a bit more than being a footnote in television history.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Get Set! Get Ready! Here Come Lucille and Reddy!

It’s pretty well the established story that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera got their notice to leave MGM (from an accountant), planned their own studio, took their MGM staff with them, hired Daws Butler and Don Messick, sold Ruff and Reddy and began a multi-billion-dollar television animation industry.

Well, not quite.

For one thing, not everyone came over from MGM; former Disney artist James Escalante vanished somewhere after leaving Culver City. It seems Bill Hanna, for a brief time, had his own separate company, as revealed by historian Keith Scott in ‘The Moose That Roared.’ And Don Messick was not the first choice for one of the starring roles in Ruff and Reddy. Lucille Bliss knows who was. She was.

Lucille Teresa Bliss is a remarkable 94 years old. She may be best known to one generation for her role in The Smurfs. She may be known to a later one for Invader Zim. She may be known to an earlier one as Crusader Rabbit. She appeared in Walt Disney’s version of Cinderella (1950).

Five years ago, Lucille was interviewed for the Archive of American Television about her career. The site is a wonderful treasure of information about the Golden Age of Television told by the people who were there. The interviews are more interesting than what’s on television today.

She tells a fascinating story about the man who wrestled Crusader Rabbit from Jay Ward and Alex Anderson—Shull Bonsall. Lucille had been the rabbit’s voice in the original cartoons in 1950-51 and Bonsall decided to play a game of hardball to get her to return for his 1957 version. Bonsall told her his was going to be a non-union shop and she’d get a $30 fee and no residuals.

Let’s pick up her story. Here’s a transcription of the interview:

And then Hanna-Barbera called me the next day, and said “We’re starting ‘Hanna-Barbera.’ They were leaving MGM, they had left. “And we’re going to do a show called ‘Ruff and Reddy.’ We want you as our Ruff and we’ll pay you $50,000 for four years, exclusivity.”

Awwwgh! 50 thousand. I’d never had that much money in my life. I thought “My God, to be at Hanna-Barbera, oh, this is fab...” I had worked commercials for them at MGM. I thought “This is wonderful.”

Well! I didn’t realise that Bonsall called again and said, “You are our rabbit.” But I said “I don’t want to do it.” “But you belong to us.”

So I went to the union. They had a lawyer there and I didn’t understand. I understand the game now. Shall we say that when somebody says “You help me and I’ll help you, and I’ll help you, you help me and I’ll help you, mainly I’ll help you” you think “It’s my big brother and he’s going to help me.” But he means “You’ll pay me, baby, and then I’ll help you,” but—

Well, I didn’t get the message. I was too dumb, I mean too ignorant. I didn’t know things like that. I was [unintelligible], I was innocent and ignorant. And I didn’t know what he meant; I thought I got a big brother.

Nothing happened. And Bonsall kept calling. And I said “Wait a minute. What about, you know, uh, what’s happening with me?” “Well, so far, it’s hard to do, honey, it’s hard to do.” So, nothin’.

So then, I got a call—wait a minute, that was the other call from Hanna-Barbera, from Bill Hanna. He said, “Lucille, we want you. We’ll make it up to you. We can’t touch you because Bonsall is a rich, wealthy man, a successful man, he owns part of the L.A. Times, he owes somethin’ else, and somethin’ else, and he’s so rich and so powerful in L.A. If we go against him, Hanna-Barbera will never get off the ground. We can not use you. But we will make it up to you some day.” And they did later. 20 years. Joe [Barbera] said to me 20 years later, they made it up with Smurfette.

But, anyway, so—I couldn’t work. Any time I went to a studio, they said “Oh, you’re supposed to do Crusader Rabbit, aren’t you?” And I said “Well, no, I won’t work. I’m union. It’s non-union.” “Well, sorry, hon.” I could not work for three months, either.

Then I got a call from Shull Bonsall saying “This is Shull Bonsall.” And he said “We’ve got now Ge-Ge Pearson. She’s understudying you. She’s going to be the rabbit. And we’ve got all your tapes, so we’re going to use a lot of your dialogue and very little of hers’.” I said “How can you—” “Ha, ha, ha!” He says “We can do that and that’s what we’re going to do. So, go out now and get a job.” I said “Go out now? After three months and you ruined the best deal with Hanna-Barbera I ever could have had?”

“Well,” he says, “Honey, all you’ve”—and I’ll never forget—“All you’ve got is a phone call to prove it.” And then he burst into wild ‘ha-ha-ha-haaa’ laughter and hung up.

And so it was that Hanna-Barbera went with Don Messick as Ruff. Whether he had been hired to do other roles on Ruff and Reddy at that point is unknown.

Incidentally, Joe Barbera didn’t wait 20 years to hire Lucille Bliss. She appeared on the best-left-forgotten Space Kidettes (1965), along with people I’ve, well, forgotten because I haven’t seen the show in 45 years.

What’s odd is Hanna-Barbera didn’t hire her when opportunities came up after the Bonsall incident. In the first season of the Huck Show in 1958, it sounds like Ginny Tyler was brought in for a couple of cartoons. The following year, Jean Vander Pyl was hired. Then Julie Bennett. Then Bea Benaderet (after June Foray was brought in for a Flintstones test reel). Then Penny Singleton (after a brief go-around with Pat Carroll) and Janet Waldo. In fact, Lucille reveals later in the interview she landed a role in The Jetsons—as Elroy. But perhaps we’ll transcribe that interesting story at another time.

If you’d like to hear this part of the interview, you’ll find it here. The Archive also conducted a conversation with Joe Barbera, with the established story we all know. Minus what you’ve just read.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Hanna-Barbera

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the airing of Hanna-Barbera’s first series for TV. Joe and Bill basically expropriated the Crusader Rabbit format of an adventure serial and came up with dog-and-cat friends Ruff and Reddy. The drawing you see to the right is by Bick Bickenbach and found on the Animation Guild’s website where they have a little piece about the cat and dog here.

Robert L. Skolsky’s syndicated column “Looking and Listening” of November 18, 1957 revealed the show had been purchased by NBC about five weeks before it aired:

NIKITA KHRUSCHEV and his Iron Curtain playmates are not the only ones capable of sending dogs into outer space.
As a matter of fact, the National Broadcasting Co. is going the Russians one better. NBC is preparing to send up a dog and cat.
Not only that, they will have a definite destination in mind and will not merely circle about the earth.
Of course, NBC plans to do it the easy way — via animated cartoons. The network's two traveling animals are called Ruff and Reddy and they are getting ready to go to work every Saturday morning.
The series will be produced by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, creators of the famous “Tom and Jerry” movie cartoons. In their first episode Ruff and Reddy will go to the aluminum planet of “Muni-Mula.”
NBC is still debating whether to assign another animated character or a human host to the show. Ruff and Reddy may even get the job themselves.

The network apparently decided, maybe due to a lack of time, a human host would be best. For more on that, click on the TV Party web site. It has more on the Ruff and Reddy show than I’d even care to know about, though the character drawings on the site are interesting.

I’ve never warmed at all to Ruff and Reddy. Maybe it’s because it’s not a comedy format; it’s an adventure format with uninteresting animation and characters. Or maybe it’s because the show was designed for children, whereas Huck and the later cartoons were written like the theatricals, with not just kids in mind.

Just what were Saturday mornings like then? Those of us in the ‘60s knew it as a smorgasbord of animation with several channels to pick from. But that happened as a result of Hanna-Barbera’s huge success, which was a few years after the debut of Ruff and Reddy. The TV listings for the station in Zanesville, Ohio, announcing the cartoon’s birth give us an idea:

TWO AND one half wonderful hours of programs just for kids . . . that's what the youngsters find on Channel 18 Saturday mornings beginning at 9:30 with “Captain Kangaroo.”
At 10 it’s a visit to the famous community of Doodyville where Buffalo Bob and freckle-faced Howdy Doody have lots of fun. Then starting this coming Saturday at 10:30, there’s a brand new program — a top cartoon series, called “The Ruff and Reddy Show” — about a cat named Ruff, and a dog named Reddy.
After that, at 11 o’clock, it’s the fabulous “Susan’s Show” followed at 11:30 by “Andy's Gang,” starring that lovable comic, Andy Devine. It’ll be a new time for “Andy's Gang” this Saturday, but Midnight the Cat, Froggy the Gremlin and Squeekie the Hamster are as amusing as ever.

Ruff and Reddy were merchandised as much as the other H-B characters. Above left you see a Give-a-Show movie projector (my brother had one; it was a poor substitute for real cartoons), and above right, is a game with Pinky, Professor Gizmo, some mouse and Crossbones Jones’ parrot holding what looks like Piglet’s head. Judging by the calligraphy of ‘Hanna-Barbera’ on the box, the game is from 1961. There were, of course, records on Colpix starting in 1959, Dell Comics and Little Golden Books drawn by Harvey Eisenberg. But they were durable; to the right you see the cover of a video game from 1990, based on the space-travel premise of their first cartoon, “Planet Pirates.” Below, you see a muddy screen grab from the cartoon’s initial shot.

Like the Huck and Quick Draw shows, Ruff and Reddy cavorted to the melodies of the Capitol Hi-Q library. The very first cue used was TC-304 Fox Trot by Bill Loose and John Seely, a happy little tune which was never used in the Huck series for reasons I don’t understand. The other one that appeared in the first cartoon was L-1203 Heavy Eerie Echo by Spencer Moore, who has credit for all the spacey cues on reel D-24, a number of which were used in the Muni-Mula story arc.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Ruff and Reddy Started It All

Ruff and Reddy may have been the cartoon that started the Hanna-Barbera empire but I never watched it as a child and still can’t get into it now almost 50 years later.

The problem for me as a child was the show was aimed at children.

My favourite cartoons were from Warner Bros. where the characters did and said funny or silly things. So did Quick Draw McGraw and Mr. Jinks. And if it’s the one thing that’s consistent in contemporary newspaper stories about Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Draw after their TV debut is the revelation—with some surprise, it seems—that adults were tuning in to those now-beloved cartoons.

You don’t read the same sort of thing back then about Ruff and Reddy. It’s because the cartoons were designed for, and broadcast on, children’s programming, while Yogi outwitted Ranger Smith in the pre-prime time hours of early evenings when dad could sneak a peak.

In fact, there wasn’t an awful lot written about Ruff and Reddy before or after it came on. The longest feature article was by syndicated writer Stephen H. Scheuer which I’ve spotted in several newspapers over the course of 1958 after the show had made its debut (on December 14, 1957). This is the earliest interview I can find of Joe and Bill about their TV cartoon studio. It’s interesting in light of where the studio was going.

Ruff ‘N Reddy Cartoons Are Custom-Made For TV
THE KIDS MAY not know it when they’re watching Ruff ‘N Reddy, the cat and dog cartoon series on Saturday mornings, but they’re looking at new cartoons made especially for TV, not old theatrical shorts already run thousands of times.
If Ruff ‘N Reddy capture the kiddies’ hearts, it will give hope to the deflated cartoon industry in Hollywood. Due to sky-rocketing costs and low rental rates grudgingly squeezed from exhibitors, the famed theatrical shorts of Disney and MGM’s Tom and Jerry are no more. Only UPA, Warner’s and Walter Lantz struggle to survive with film shorts.
Won 7 Awards
Ruff, the cat, and Reddy, the dog, are the brain children of mouse and cat creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who won seven Academy Awards for their Tom and Jerry shorts at MGM.
Facing the bleak future of theatrical shorts, Hanna and Barbera left MGM, taking half their crew with them and, with the help of movie director George Sidney, lined up capital, formed a company and quickly sold the Ruff ‘N Reddy idea for a TV series.
The TV market, glutted with old cartoons on tire and meat rationing and mentions of Hitler, seemed like it could use up-to-date cartoons and new techniques. Hanna and Barbera, though faced with making as many cartoons in one year for TV as they had in 10 for MGM at about one-fifth the cost. To do this meant stream-lining and eliminating the costly slow processes.
Cut Drawings
The two men first reduced the total number of drawings from 10,000 to 1,500 and still came up with a sufficient amount of motion. Next, time-consuming color tests and other tests were cut out. The experienced crew, many of whom have worked with Hanna and Barbera for more than 20 years, were to be their own judges. When the bosses see the cartoon it is finished.
“If we start making mistakes we’re in trouble,” said Hanna, because retakes are too expensive for TV.”
So far the results have been almost perfect. “We’ve left out an arm once in a frame and a couple of times we may have shot the wrong background,” said Barbera, “but on the whole, technically the shows are OK. I think the series is funnier and better than the Tom and Jerry film shorts. The people who work with us think so, too. We can survive on TV and do it well.”
Ruff ‘N Reddy cartoons run from four to six minutes in serial form with cliff hanger endings so kids will keep wondering during the week what the outcomes will be. Hanna and Barbera knock out a story about Africa in a helicopter, underwater adventure in submarines with such characters as Capt. Greedy, Salt Water Daffy and Prof. Gismo, an absent-minded genius who took Ruff and Reddy to the planet Muni-Mula (spell it backwards) last fall. Titles for episodes run to “Whirlybird Catches the Worm,” “Heels on Wheels.”
10-Year Option
NBC has a 10-year option on Ruff ‘N Reddy and evidently plans to continue running the show on Saturday morning. Of course, Hanna and Barbera would like an early evening spot to catch the adults, too, but they’re too busy turning out the cartoons to have any time to sit back and dream about ideal time spots.
Highly admired among cartoonists for their savvy and industry, Hanna and Barbera are taking all the risks in crashing a new industry and, if they make it, the cartoon industry has a new chance for survival.

There was a time when there was a big connection between cartoons and children’s records. Joe and Bill knew a potential money-maker for them when they saw it (or heard it) and jumped on board. Hanna-Barbera eventually had its own record label, but originally released material through Golden and Colpix Records. It took the voice track of some of its cartoons, added some sound effects, an organ, and had an instant children’s record (alas, no Hi-Q library music; that was licensed for TV use only). Ruff and Reddy’s first cartoon was repackaged in 1959 as “Adventures in Space” (Colpix 201). Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy to let you hear it (if someone has the .zip file of this that was on the web, let me know).

Other records featured re-worked versions of the cartoon’s themes with additional lyrics. You can listen to this kinda lame version of the Ruff and Reddy theme on a 1959 Golden Record 78 (R558). It was by Gil Mack with the Sandpipers, who aren’t the same ones that had the latin folk-tinged Guantanamera (“1966 solid gold!” screeched I in my disc jockey years).

It’s billed with an unknown song about Professor Gizmo, who appeared on at least one of the Ruff and Reddy story arcs. Unfortunately, Don Messick wasn’t hired to voice his own character on this record; it was entrusted to Mack. He’s no Don Messick. You can listen to it HERE.

These both appeared on a Golden Records LP (51) of Hanna-Barbera themes and character songs that range from mildly interesting to excruciatingly bad. I’ll get it up when I have a chance.