Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Voices and a Margrock

It is quite possible Hanna-Barbera’s silent partner wasn’t so silent in 1963.

When H-B Enterprises started in 1957, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera weren’t the only ones behind the studio. The two had a connection with George Sidney dating to when he directed Anchor’s Aweigh (1945), which featured animated scenes with their Tom and Jerry. In 1957, Sidney was the head of the Directors Guild of America, and he agreed to invest in the new company and take an executive title. Not only that, he is credited with making the arrangements to connect Hanna and Barbera with Columbia Pictures’ TV subsidiary Screen Gems.

Sidney remained in the background while he continued his directing career, cashing out when Taft Broadcasting bought Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1967.

But, along the way, a funny thing happened.

Sidney became infatuated with a young dancer and actress named Ann-Margret. George Burns had added her to his act. Sidney saw her, shoved her into his movie production of Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and thanks to a re-write of the script, put a lot of the focus on her.

Now we get to connect some dots. Sidney’s Birdie was distributed by Columbia. Sidney’s H-B series The Flintstones was distributed by Screen Gems. What better way for Sidney to get more publicity for his movie star than by having her guest-star on The Flintstones?

Okay, I don’t know if that’s the way it went down. But it’s fun to consider.

On April 9, 1963, Daily Variety’s Army Archerd reported her signing for the fourth season debut episode as Pebbles’ babysitter. A release by ABC or Screen Gems hit newspapers by late May, advertising “She will sing two songs, one a lullaby, the other an upbeat pop number.”

I must admit I’ve never been infected with Ann-Margrock Fever. Some people like babysitters tugging at the heart with a sticky-sweet lullabye to a little girl, but it’s not the kind of plot I’m into.

The season debut (on most ABC stations) was September 19. Not coincidentally, in an ABC promotional tie-in, Fred appeared on the Jimmy Dean show an hour and a half later.

Here’s Variety’s review of Production P-103, published September 25:

With Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet, others;
Producers-Directors: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
Writers: R. Allen Saffian, Harvey Bullock
30 Mins., Thurs.; 7:30 p.m.
ABC-TV (film)
Now in its fourth season, "The Flintstones" has the unique distinction of being the lone survivor of several animated cartoon series aimed at an adult level. Among programs in this category that have failed to click are "The Jetsons," a situation comedy set in the 21st century, and "The Boing Boing Show," based on a newspaper cartoon character [Yowp note: It wasn’t. It was a character created by Dr. Seuss].
While the stone age era originally may have been a somewhat bizarre setting to place characters who mouth contemporary things, the satirical creation of the Hanna-Barbera cartoonery has not become almost as much a part of tv viewing as the news and weather report.
Calling 'em a household word wouldn't be too far off for a merchandising offshoot has put "Flintstone" glasses on lotsa kitchen shelves.
For the seasonal preem Thursday (19) writers R. Allen Saffian and Harvey Bullock came up with an amusing bit which caricatured singer Ann-Margret. She arrived in Bedrock (that's where the Flintstones live) to appear in a tv special dedicating Bedrock Bowl.
But before the "special" went on she wound up as a babysitter for the Flintstones' offspring and later managed to get Fred Flintstone and neighbor Barney Bubble [sic] on the show with her in an oldtime vaude strawhat & cane terp routine. It sounds rather silly, but nevertheless it all added up to the kind of material that Flintstone fans thrive upon.
Ann-Margret, who supplied her own off-screen voice, also warbled a couple tunes—“The Littlest Lamb” and "Ain't Gonna Be Your Love No More" which provided a lively musical fillip. Alan Reed again is the voice of noisy Fred Flintstone, Jean Vander Pyl continues as his wife while the bungling Barney Rubble is depicted by Mel Blanc, per usual.
"The Flintstones" are off to another solid season and don't have to drill to bedrock to find someone to pick up the tab. For among the bankrollers are everything from Skippy Peanut Butter to Welch's Grape Juice. Gilb.

Despite the mention of Benaderet, her name is not in the credits in the fourth season. Is Joe Barbera trying to tell her something?

An irony is the “old-time” dancing routine was done to a neutral Hoyt Curtin cue heard on the cartoon from the future—The Jetsons. Despite the presence of Carlo Vinci and Don Patterson, the animation isn’t terribly interesting. Margrock is infected much of the time with Hanna-Barbera-itis—her body is rigid while her head moves a bit. (I wonder if the Margrock dance moves were copied from Ann-Margret's swivel-hip routine on the 1962 Oscar telecast, which she told the Atlanta Constitution in 1963 was the turning point of her career).

And how’s this for dialogue?

Ann – Thank you so much, Mr....
Fred – Flintstone, miss. Fred Flintstone. And this is my partner, Barney Rubble.
Barney – Hi.
Laugh Track – familiar sounding guffaws.

Yeah, some real funny stuff there, Mr. L. Track. There are a few talking animals-as-appliances to amuse us. Actually, the funniest comment comes from the sponsor of the Margrock show (played by John Stephenson) who sniffs that his mother sang “The Littlest Lamb” to him when he was young. That was some accomplishment, since the song was written by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera with Joyce Goodwin and copyrighted on Sept. 9, 1963. The other song, “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Fool No More,” was written by Brice Coefield and Gary Pipkin and published by Screen Gems-Columbia Music, according to the cue sheet for the cartoon.

The popular press apparently had apparently decided Fred and Pebbly-Poo were passe. I’ve found no newspaper reviews of the episode, not even after a rebroadcast on June 16, 1964.

However—and this is the real purpose of this post—two months after the start of the 1963-64 season, the Tennesseean featured the Flintstones (sans Margrock) on the front of its entertainment magazine with the headline “Flintstones Begin Fourth Smashing Season.” Why a cover story article is using the future tense two months after something started, I don’t know. But this was published on November 17, 1963 and we hear what the stars felt about being on a hit show while it was still on the air.

Flintstones Enter Their 4th Year
WITH THE hayseed growing amongst the "diachronda" in Beverly Hills, the German army surrendering all over again for a new generation, and doctors flashing their scalpels and libidos into millions of living rooms, Hanna-Barbera's "Flintstones" will enter its fourth year on television.
Hanna Barbera's animated satire of life in the stone age (Thursdays, 6:30 p.m., Color. Ch. 8.) has proven a smash not only in America but throughout the world as well. It is currently playing in over 42 countries.
One of the little known aspects of the show is the marked effect it has had on its real life stars. Alan Reed, Bea Benadaret, Mel Blanc, and Jean Vander Pyl.
"I just completed a trip to various parts of the country," states Alan Reed, the burley voice of Fred Flintstone, "and because people recognized my voice and realized it was Fred, I really had some wonderfully warm experiences."
Close to Public
"In all the years I was doing radio, my voice was never as familiar to the public as it is now with the ‘Flintstones.’ It's a good feeling to know that you are that close to the public."
Bea Benedaret [sic], the voice of Betty Rubble, says, "There's no doubt that being the voice of Betty Rubble has brought added excitement to my life.
"All my friends, both professional and non-professional, feel very personally and unusually interested in the fact that I am doing the part.
"I am very proud to be doing the series," she said.
Fred Flintstone's ever-lovin' spouse, Wilma, portrayed by Jean Vander Pyl, has this to say:
"I think the most gratifying reaction I get to doing the voice of Wilma Flintstone is the delightful prestige that goes along with it. As opposed to doing most other shows, this is not only unique but virtually unheard of. It's a real joy. It doesn't matter about all the other characters I've done throughout the years.
Other Members
Rounding out the cast, the versatile Mel Blanc, who essays Barney Rubble on the show, stated:
"Being the voice of Barney Rubble in the Flintstones has been one of the most fun things I have ever done. Mostly because of the reaction I get from my fans and from the public in general. They love Barney and consequently they love me. That's nice.
"I have yet to talk to anyone who is not familiar with the series, and that's mighty unusual these days for television, now that people are getting a little more choosey.
"I had this exciting popularity driven home to me when I was in the hospital after my automobile accident.
[“]The mail I got was fantastic, and most of it came from those who were sorry to know that Barney Rubble had been injured.
"I found that Barney had a good many friends, and that's a gratifying reaction to an actor who never appears on the screen. Let's face it. The 'Flintstones' are practically a national institution."

Time certainly bore out Blanc’s claim. There have been all kinds of spin-offs, sequels and specials—and a live-action feature film—that kept the Modern Stone Age family in the public consciousness, though these days it’s more nostalgic or cereal related. As for Ann-Margret, she’s still with us, but I can’t help but think every obituary will refer to her appearance with Fred and Barney. Perhaps thanks to George Sidney.

Monday, 11 September 2023

H-B Podcast

A Hanna-Barbera podcast?

Well, it had to happen some time. No, I have nothing to do with it; I really have neither the time nor inclination to put one together.

But you're in luck. Greg Erhbar does have the time, and he's begun one.

Greg has a wonderful breadth of knowledge about children's records, including the ones featuring the Hanna-Barbera characters and the Hanna-Barbera record label. He also has a real interest Bill and Joe's cartoon studio. He'll be discussing this with various guests. Greg takes great care to strive for accuracy.

You can check out the 'casts by clicking on this link.

This reminds me that some years ago, Rick Greene sent me scans of some Golden Record covers for H-B songs cut in New York City. Here are four of them:

For contractural reasons, Daws Butler and Don Messick could not appear on the Golden Records (and Earl Kress told me that Daws hated to fly to New York anyway), so people like radio actor Gil Mack were hired to impersonate the characters. Greg likes his work better than I do. Mack was very versatile on radio but as Mr. Jinks, he's cringing at best. You can find a whole bunch of those songs in this dusty old post.

Sunday, 27 August 2023

Whip Up Some Cereal

The Quick Draw McGraw Show was bought and paid for by Kellogg’s, so the cereal maker made sure it had its imprint in the opening and closing animation.

As the Randy Horne Singers cheerfully bleated out “(That’s) Quick Draw McGraw,” the star drove a stagecoach through the plateaus of the American Southwest.

The camera cuts to a close-up of Quick Draw cracking his whip. Rather cleverly, the whip returns to spell the sponsor’s name with the letter-style familiar from cereal boxes.

But hold on thar! Quick Draw’s rope trick is only temporary. The letters fall and drop around his snout.

Quick Draw cracks the whip again. The force causes his head to swirl around, giving him multiple eyes and some funny expressions which viewers don’t see because of the pace of the animation.

The letters on the whip resume their correct form.

Some years later, Hanna-Barbera put out both the Huck and Quick Draw series into syndication, but without Kellogg’s participation; stations could sell the spot-break time that had been used to sell Sugar Pops or Corn Flakes. This also meant changes in the openings and closings to remove all references to Kellogg’s.

This annoyed me as a kid. “They’ve cut out Baba Looey on the stagecoach,” I grumbled loudly at the TV set.

I was also irritated about the changed opening to the Huck show. “Where’s the rooster?” I wanted to know. Years later, when Huck came out on DVD, the rooster footage returned and I satisfied myself it wasn’t something my childhood imagination had dreamed.

Animation director Robert Alvarez has these layout drawings in his collection. I presume they’re the work of Dick Bickenbach as his personal collection of H-B artwork ended up being auctioned on line. (Mr. Alvarez clears up the origin of these drawings in the comments. While Bick's artwork was auctioned, that is not the source).

I couldn’t tell you who animated these opening and closing sequences. I’m pretty sure the backgrounds are by Joe Montell, who worked for Tex Avery at MGM and later for John Sutherland Productions and Jay Ward in Mexico.

Now, thanks to the collection of the late Earl Kress, a little appropriate music. Here is the Kellogg’s “Good Morning” jingle on a xylophone. I’ve snipped out Hoyt Curtin’s slate and instructions. The xylophone player is named Chuck. There are three versions at different tempos. These were made at Western Recording on August 26, 1960. At the same session, by the way, Curtin recorded the vocals for the “Happy Anniversary” episode of The Flintstones.




And, because you want it, here is Hoyt Curtin scatting how he wants the Kellogg’s jingle to sound.


Ah, but that’s not all!

Also buried in Earl’s audio collection are the opening/closing Kellogg’s billboards for Top Cat. Weekly Variety reported on March 1, 1961 the series had been sold to the cereal company and Bristol-Myers (makers of Ban deodorant and Bufferin) on an alternate-weekly sponsorship basis.



This is the point in the post where I make my usual lament that Quick Draw isn’t on DVD (except for several episodes from the last season where music rights aren’t an issue) and that the Top Cat DVD has the same closing credits on all 30 episodes. (Kin Platt did not write the whole series, on-line "research" notwithstanding). We know from Variety’s review of Oct. 4, 1961 that Harvey S. Bullock wrote the debut “The $1,000,000 Derby” and Mike Maltese told interviewers he also supplied at least one story).

Kellogg’s deserves some credit for the success of the Hanna-Barbera studio. In 1958, H-B Enterprises was only turning out Ruff ‘n’ Reddy for NBC. Joe Barbera or Screen Gems’ John Mitchell or both managed to convince Leo Burnett, Kellogg’s agency, to replace one of its syndicated half-hour live-action strips with The Huckleberry Hound Show. Huck’s incredible success resulted in the birth of Quick Draw and the expansion of what became a cartoon empire.

Sunday, 23 July 2023

Making The First Flintstones

“How long did it take to animate a Hanna-Barbera cartoon?”

That question has been put to the Yowp blog before. I could say “How should I know? I’m a cartoon dog,” but that answer is neither satisfactory nor altogether true.

Layout artist Bob Givens, who said he and Mike Maltese left Warner Bros. for H-B together in November 1958, recalled that Ken Muse was the fastest animator at the studio and could complete a 6 ½ minute cartoon (Huck, Yogi, etc.) in a week.

What about the half-hour shows, like The Flintstones or Jonny Quest? Well, we have a partial answer thanks to the late Earl Kress and his trusty filing cabinet.

Earl made copies of production records in the H-B file for the first dozen or so episodes of The Flintstones. These are invaluable as the episodes for the first two seasons had their closing animation removed in the 1960s and the same set of credits from one episode spliced onto the end of all of them. (As a kid, I was miffed. The voice credits said “Hal Smith – John Stephenson” and I knew they weren’t heard on some of the shows). When the DVDs were released, Earl oversaw new gang credits over the original animation (minus sponsor credits) so they were closer to how the shows originally aired.

More interesting, perhaps, are the dates (not always complete) about how long each show spent in layout and animation. These credits are not on DVD, either.

Unlike episodes in the fifth and sixth seasons, only one person animated each half hour. Unfortunately, the sheets don’t name any assistants; the studio had them, as a Variety story of Oct. 20, 1960 related how Bob Carr had been promoted from assistant to full animator.

You can click on each of these sheets to read them better. Regular readers here should know who the animators and other artists are who are recorded in these production logs, so I’ll skip commenting about them.

You’ll see it took about six weeks to animate each of the first two episodes put into production. Normally, the voice track is recorded first and then the animator goes to work. That isn’t the case here. It could very well be because the first few tracks were scrapped and the parts of Fred and Barney re-cast. Hal Smith related he was Barney opposite Bill Thompson’s Fred and Thompson (known better as the voice of Droopy at MGM) couldn’t maintain the growly voice that Barbera wanted for the character. (Barbera also wrote in his autobiography that Mel Blanc was not available when the show was first cast).

The animation checker for P-1 is Janet Gusdavison. A photo in the Mike Barrier collection shows she was at UPA in 1948. She can be found in the City Directory for Miami in 1941, so I presume she was working at the Fleischer studio then. She died in 1998.

The cameraman is Frank Paiker, who went back to the silent days in New York and the sound editor is Warner Leighton, who came to H-B from live action after time in the military. He was a Beverly Hills High School grad who died in 2005.

Emil Carle is the animation checker on P-2. He also animated a Pixie and Dixie cartoon. More about him in this post. Roy Wade was responsible for some of the camera work; he had been a cameraman at MGM and happened to be Bill Hanna’s wife’s brother. The sound editor is Joe Ruby, who should need no introduction, especially to fans of a cartoon Great Dane he co-created (make that “Rate Rane”).

P-2, “The Flintstone Flyer,” was the debut episode on Sept. 30, 1960. P-1, “The Swimming Pool,” was the third episode to air on Oct. 14, 1960.

By episodes three and four, the animators are working after the track is recorded.

The checker on P-4 is Annie Lee Holm, whose obit on IMDB says she started her cartoon career with Walt Disney. She died at age 61 in 1986.

Cameraman Vic Shank was a World War Two vet who worked for Austenal Labs in Chicago. In 1969, he was employed by a sports car dealership but the next year, he was the head of Animated Film Service, a film distribution company. He died in 1974. Sound editor Greg Watson had been with Hanna and Barbera at MGM under Jim Faris.

P-3, “The Prowler,” was the 14th episode to air on Dec. 30, 1960, while P-4, “The Baby Sitters,” was the 7th on November 11, 1960.

The voice cast list for P-5 is incomplete. Bill Thompson supplies his Wallace Wimple/Droopy voice as Mr. Slate. No, not the Slate who’s Fred’s boss. This one puts up his kids as collateral so he can buy a pop-up toaster (from the Buddy Buddy jewelry store run by Frank Nelson).

Remarkably, Don Patterson animated both P-4 and P-5 at the same time. It took about seven weeks.

The checker on P-5 in Pat Helmuth. A story in the Monrovia News-Post in 1980 indicates she studied at the Art Institute in Chicago before moving to California, and worked for the Disney studio. She opened her own shop in 1963 and made pottery as well as painted in acrylics. The sound editor on the cartoon is Don Douglas. He has the distinction of working on the last Warner Bros. cartoon, the Cool Cat epic Injun Trouble, which employed Bob Givens as its layout artist.

P-5, “The Engagement Ring,” was the ninth episode to air on Nov. 25, 1960 while Production P-6, “No Help Wanted,” was episode four, airing on Oct. 21, 1960.

P-8 should actually read “The Drive-In.” It aired Dec. 23, 1960, the 13th episode. P-7, “At the Races,” was the eighth episode, appearing on ABC stations on Nov. 18, 1960. It was written by Syd Zelinka, a radio writer for Groucho Marx and the team of Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore, who moved into television to work for Jackie Gleason (both on The Honeymooners and on his variety show) and Phil Silvers on Bilko. He died in 1981.

P-9 is the first cartoon where Jerry Mann provided voices for Hanna-Barbera. He was an impressionist and comedian who showed up on a number of Tom and Jerry cartoons in the 1940s. The cast list doesn’t indicate that Duke Mitchell sang as Fred Flintstone. And what is it with Hanna-Barbera characters and drums? Barney plays the drums in this cartoon and “The Swimming Pool.” Benny the Ball pounds a pail with drum sticks in Top Cat. Then George Jetson plays a drum kit in the Jet Screamer episode.

It took Ken Muse seven weeks to animate this episode. My guess is he was working on the Kellogg’s shows at the same time.

P-10 has Fred turned into the snooty Frederick, where Alan Reed digs his Falstaff Openshaw voice from the Fred Allen radio show out of retirement. Howard McNear uses his quirky Floyd the barber voice from The Andy Griffith Show on this cartoon as the doctor.

P-9, “Hot Lips Hannigan,” was the second episode to air on Oct. 7, 1960, while P-10, “The Split Personality,” was show number 5, airing on October 28th. I cannot explain why both were “approved” (or by whom) after the dates they aired.

Yes, Production 11 is the one where Dino talks like Phil Silvers, though you’ll notice the voice list calls the character “Snork.” I’ve always wondered if Jerry Mann auditioned for the Silvers-inspired lead in Top Cat months later (Arnold Stang was the third choice). This may have been the first Warren Foster-Mike Maltese team-up; they didn’t write together at Warners.

P-11, “The Snorkasaurus Hunter,” was the 18th episode to air on Jan. 27, 1961, while P-12, “Hollyrock, Here I Come,” appeared on Dec. 2, 1960, as the tenth episode.

Nancy Russell provides several voices in P-13. A wild guess is she is the Nancy Guild Russell in the 1950 census for Santa Monica whose occupation is “motion picture actress.” She appeared in a Life magazine article in 1945, was signed by 20th Century Fox, then married fellow contract player Charlie Russell in 1947 (they divorced 2 1/2 years later). She was 73 when she died of emphysema in 1999. You can read a little bit about Bob Hopkins of P-14 in this post, which also gives you a link to some things about Jerry Mann.

“The Girls’ Night Out,” was Production 13 but the fifteen show broadcast on Jan. 6, 1961. P-14, “The Monster From the Tar Pits,” aired on Nov. 4, 1960, as episode six.

John Stephenson’s long career at Hanna-Barbera began with Production 15. Eventually, when the series settled down to give Fred a regular boss, Stephenson was given the role. He had a fine career in front of the camera on sitcoms, as a narrator, as a commercial announcer on radio and TV, and even appeared on early television in Chicago while in university.

Norm Stainback shot some of the cels for this cartoon. He was born in Arkansas. In 1940, he was employed in Burbank by the company that makes Jergen’s Lotion. Ten years later he was a lab technician for a film developer in the Los Angeles area. He died in Dallas in 1984.

P-15, “The Golf Champion,” aired Dec. 9, 1960, the eleventh episode of the series. P-16, “The Sweepstakes Ticket,” was the twelfth show and aired the following week.

A new name pops up as the sound editor on P-17. Hank Gotzenberg later worked on the Grantray-Lawrence Spiderman cartoons and for Chuck Jones Productions. He served in Guam with the U.S. Marines and had worked at Lockheed Aircraft when he enlisted in 1941. The 1950 Census reports he was divorced, unemployed since at least 1948 and living with his parents. He died at Long Beach in 1978, age 58.

Earl didn’t have a sheet for P-18 “The Hot Piano,” animated by George Nicholas and written by Mike Maltese, known mainly for the cops singing “Happy Anniversary” (Earl does have a dub of the recording session for the song from Aug. 28, 1960). P-19 is the last one I received from his collection. Don Patterson must have been pretty busy at the time as it took him more than two months to finish animating it.

Arthur Phillips made his H-B writing debut on P-19, and his name appears on many more in the series. He had written for Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton on TV, and on films in the ‘40s. He died in 1990.

P-17, “The Hypnotist,” was the 20th episode to be broadcast on Feb. 10, 1961 while P-19, “The Big Bank Robbery,” was the 17th show, airing on Jan. 20, 1961.

Since you’ve read this far, let’s pass along some cues (from a cassette) from Earl. The titles listed below are what’s on the actual recording sheets. No date is listed, but the hand-writing is the same as cues recorded on June 10, 1960. The names are what Hoyt Curtin gave them.












Wednesday, 12 July 2023

Farewell, Jimmy Weldon

Time continues to take its inevitable toll on the remaining star voices of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The voice of Yakky Doodle, Jimmy Weldon, has died at the age of 99.

I never had the chance to speak with Mr. Weldon, but all accounts leave the impression he was a kind man who enjoyed entertaining and enjoyed life.

Yakky began life at MGM, when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were looking for third characters to play off Tom and Jerry. They came up an orphan duck and cast him in Little Quacker (released in early 1950). Despite his annoying self-pity, Bill and Joe liked him and put him in eight cartoons. When the MGM studio closed in 1957, the two created H-B Enterprises with director George Sidney. The Huckleberry Hound Show was being developed in 1958, and secondary characters (capable of being marketed) were in need. Barbera came up with a similar duck and put him in two Yogi Bear cartoons (one where he foiled that noble, intelligent hunting dog, Yowp). The following year, he appeared opposite Pixie & Dixie/Mr. Jinks, Snooper & Blabber and Augie Doggie (in three cartoons).

Hanna-Barbera signed a deal in fall 1960 to develop a show around Yogi Bear, and one segment was handed over to the duck, who was re-designed and given a new name (H-B marketing had been calling him “Biddy Buddy”). Starting at MGM, the duck was voiced by nightclub comedian Red Coffey, and there is at least one between-the-cartoons short where Coffey voices Yakky. But Coffey didn’t take on the role permanently, likely because he was touring the U.S. in "Hellzapoppin'," so Weldon was hired by Barbera in what Weldon called “the most important thing that ever happened to my career.” He was working on television in Fresno and used to fly to Hanna-Barbera for voice sessions. In his own plane!

Yakky benefited from several things, not the least of which was Weldon’s performances coupled with writer Mike Maltese’s downplaying of the “poor, poor me” aspect of the character. Weldon’s Yakky was generally cheerful, sincere and a dedicated friend. These characteristics seem to describe Weldon himself. He made a career later in life as a motivational speaker. This story from the Newhall Signal of Feb. 3, 1992 gives you a bit of insight into Jimmy Weldon.

Weldon energizes seniors’ motivation
Signal staff writer
NEWHALL — With a flashy smile and a high-energy presentation style, Jimmy Weldon appeared before a group of about 50 seniors last Tuesday like a colorized version of an old black-and-white television favorite.
A motivator, speaker, comedian and actor, Weldon, 68, is perhaps best known for the numerous children's shows of the 1950s he starred in with his duck mascot, Webster Webfoot. But Tuesday, he brought a message of motivation to the audience assembled in the multipurpose room of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.
Frequently addressing the crowd by name and gesticulating his every word, the speaker imbued the 55-plus set with confidence and encouragement in a stirring, often funny, presentation.
"You are the most important person on this earth," he told the seniors. "It's up to us to give the young people today something to live for."
To Weldon, there is no such thing as retirement. Only what "I used to do and this is what I do now." There is also no such thing as time, only spending time and spending it wisely.
Experience is "just what a guy gets when he no longer needs it"—a lesson well-learned after a youth accident with a lawn mower severed part of his finger.
Weldon spoke of his life experiences from Oklahoma radio show personality to television sitcom star, frequently interjecting adages of heartfelt advice.
"This computer," he said, pointing to his head, "works like the land. I tell young people be careful what you plant up here because it's going to come back to you."
Weldon knew at the age of 7 he would end up in Hollywood one day. It was the day he saw his first motion picture, "Ten Nights in a Bar Room."
A scruffy youth from Chickasha, Okla., he didn't have any special talent other than a voice that he practiced and practiced until he sounded like Donald Duck. Nevertheless, he was determined that voice would buy his ticket to movies.
His brothers laughed at him and his seventh-grade teacher even sent him to the corner when he answered her in "duck voice."
But he persisted, and his efforts paid off when Hollywood started buying into his talent. Eventually, the voice incarnated into Webster Webfoot, a blue-capped, enormous-eyed, yellow-billed duck.
He said he was once asked to speak before a crowd of doctors by a physician intrigued by the idea of a man making a living as a "duck."
Weldon explains in his memoirs, "Go Get 'Em Tiger," how he pulled Webster out of his suitcase and told the 150 doctors and their wives, "this is the little guy I hope will take me to Hollywood one day."
Indeed it did. Fifty years later, Weldon once again pulled his mascot out of that suitcase before the Santa Clarita seniors, but this time with a few memories to share of his experiences in radio, television and movies.
The Webster Webfoot Show, the longest running television show in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, launched a career that would send him to Los Angeles, New York, Fresno and back to Los Angeles.
His career spanned 41 years, taking him to the British Broadcasting Corp., the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the NBC network show, "Funny Boners."
The producers of the hit television show, "Yogi Bear," fashioned Yogi's sidekick, "Yakky Doodle," after Webster Webfoot.
As a youth, his small part in one of the "Our Gang" movies cowered in the shadows of a movie role he later co-starred in with Ronald Coleman [sic] of the hit TV show, "Halls of Ivy."
But it wasn't the movie and television show credits, the introductions to famous people nor the rounds of golf with celebrities that formed the message he has since taken on the road. It was the lessons learned from the underlying factors that helped motivate him along his career journey, he said.
In large letters, Weldon scrawled the word "motivation" on a blackboard, inserting a slash between the “v” and “a” and adding a “c” to the latter part of the word to form "action."
Goals are not enough to realize your dreams, Weldon said. A goal must be followed by a plan, a desire, confidence, determination and a positive attitude.
As parents and grandparents, he told the seniors, "you can plant the seed with young people" and find new purpose in your own lives.
"Don't lose the enthusiasm," he implored. "We're the same ones we were when we were little. We're just a little older."

As for the “Donald Duck” aspect of his voice, Weldon amusingly recounted to interviewer Stu Shostak that Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald, wasn’t happy about it. (Nash never worked for Hanna-Barbera, no matter what the internet may say). He said he and the other actors in each Yakky cartoon worked together in a studio with Barbera directing on the other side of the glass in the control room, gesturing how he wanted the lines read, and reacting whether they were voiced the way he wanted.

Weldon would have turned 100 on September 23rd. His words about living, live on. And, here and there, so do Yakky’s cartoons where he gets the better of Alfie Gator and Fibber Fox, yells for Chopper, and screeches an off-key version of "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay."

Note: As someone has asked me this, the last pre-1961 Hanna-Barbera actor who is still alive is Elliot Field, who was Blabber Mouse and some incidental characters in the first few episodes of the Quick Draw McGraw show.