Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Wally, Lippy and the Guy Who Bought Laurel and Hardy

The marketers had a bit of a different job when it came to the Hanna-Barbera cartoons in 1962. The studio’s first series (Ruff and Reddy) had been bought by a network and then ad agencies were hit up for sponsors. Same thing with The Flintstones and Top Cat. The Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Yogi Bear shows were bought by Kellogg’s and then the Leo Burnett agency found stations that would take the full half hours, complete with commercials.

But when the studio developed what people today prefer calling “the new Hanna-Barbera cartoon series” in early 1962, it had to go and pitch the cartoons themselves to individual TV stations. Here are some two-pages ads placed in the trade publication Broadcaster magazine. The first pair is from the edition of January 29, 1962, the second from July 7, 1962. Nowhere in the ads is the three-cartoon block called “The New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series” nor is the term even used to describe it.

And reader Jade-Amethyst Scales found another Broadcasting ad for Wally, Lippy and Touche, dated January 28, 1963.

Something else had happened between the time the first H-B cartoon appeared on screens at the end of 1957 and when Screen Gems was pitching Lippy, Touché and Wally a little over four years later—the short-lasting boom in prime-time cartoons. The success of The Flintstones in the 1960-61 season resulted in networks hunting for animated shows for the following season. Alvin, Calvin and the Colonel, Top Cat, The Bullwinkle Show and Beanie and Cecil all showed up on prime time. All but Bullwinkle lasted only one poorly-rated season and they high-tailed it to the safe confines of weekend morning kid programming.

However, buoyed by their entry into the prime-time line-up, several of the cartoon studios started kicking around concepts for other shows to compete for air-time in syndication against Hanna-Barbera’s new three-some. Broadcasting gave a capsulised version of each in its edition of February 12, 1962. I have left the spellings intact.

Just a quick note if you’re unfamiliar with the studios: Creston Studios was set up in 1961 by commercial house TV Spots to produce all its televised animated shows. TV Spots had animated the second bunch of Crusader Rabbit cartoons that came out in 1958 and had a pilot for the Sir Loin cartoon in 1960. Bob Clampett, of course, was behind Beanie and Cecil; his Snowball studio seems to have been beset with funding problems and network interference. Larry Harmon had produced Bozo the Clown and some of the Popeye TV cartoons that aired in syndication in 1960 and completed a pilot that year for a version of The Adventures of Tintin in colour. UPA and Tom Terrific should be well-known to readers here. Space Age Productions is a new one on me.

Beetle Bailey—The King Features comic strip of the same name is the basis for this seven-minute animated cartoon series which Creston Studios is producing. Howard Morris, Allen Melvin, June Foray and Dave Garry
[may be a typo for Dave Barry] provide the voices. Gerald Ray is producer-director; Bob Gannon executive producer.
The Edgar Bergen Show—The noted radio ventriloquist and his two best-known dummies, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, perform as animated characters in this half-hour cartoon series by Bob Clampett Cartoons. Mr. Bergen will introduce each broadcast live.
Laurel and Hardy—The comedy team who made so many motion pictures that eventually wound up on tv are being turned into animated cartoon characters in half-hour series produced for NBC-TV by Larry Harmon Pictures.
Lippy Lion—This series of five-minute animated cartoons now in the works at Hanna-Barbera Productions for syndication stars a lion as a gabby opportunist, who gets into a lot of adventures with his pal, Hardy Har Har, a sad hyena. William Hanna and Joe Barbera are directing and producing the series.
Muddled Masterpieces — Animated five-minute satires of classic art, produced in color, make up this Creston Studios series. Gerald Ray is producer-director; Norm Gottfredson is art director; Sam Nickolson, creative director, and Bob Ganon, executive producer.
The Normal Norman Show—Live action, puppets and animation are combined in this series of animated cartoons concerning the adventures of a six-legged animated cartoon character produced by Bob Clampett Cartoons.
One Manikin's Family—Robots from outer space become residents of a big city suburb in this half-hour animated cartoon series produced by Bob Clampett Cartoons.
Rod Rocket—This animated cartoon series of five-minute programs deals with two small boys and their adventures with a rocket in space. Space Age Productions has completed five episodes, Jim Morgan is producer.
Shaggy Dog Tales—A talking dog wins a scholarship to a university and thereby gets into the situations pictured in this animated cartoon series of five-minute episodes produced by Creston Studios. Gerald Ray is producer-director; Norm Gottfredson, art director; Sam Nickolson, creative director, and Bob Ganon executive producer.
Sir Loin and Socrates—Sir Loin is a British version of Don Quixote, idealistic and impractical and constantly getting into predicaments from which Socrates, a dragon who serves as Sir Loin's valet, has to rescue him. This half-hour animated cartoon series is produced by Creston Studios. Gerald Ray is producer-director; Norm Gottfredson, art director; Sam Nickolson, creative director, and Bob Ganon, executive producer.
Tom Terrific—A small boy—with a magic hat that can transform the wearer into a train, plane, rocket or whatever else is needed to overcome the villianous Crabby Appleton—is the hero of this five-minute animated cartoon strip that CBS Films is offering for sale to stations or sponsors on a syndicated basis. The series is made up of 130 cartoons which tell 26 stories in groups of five episodes each. The series is produced by Terrytoons Division of CBS Films.
Touche Turtle—The name character, defender of the weak and avenger of wrongs, and his pal, Dum Dum, a sheep dog, are the chief actors in this five-minute animated cartoon series, now in production at Hanna-Barbera Productions for syndication. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are co-producer-directors.
The UPA Cartoon Show—Fran Allison plays hostess to this series of 26 half-hour cartoons made by UPA over the years. Henry G. Saperstein is executive producer of the series, now in production at Jack Webb's Mark VII Studio. A pilot is due for showing around the first of March. The series will be syndicated by Television Personalities.
Wally Gator—Life in the city zoo is dull to this cartoon character, who goes out in search of adventure, finds more than he bargained for and is glad to get back to his cage and his keeper, Mr. Twiddle, in this animated series of five-minute cartoons now in preparation for syndication at Hanna-Barbera Productions. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are co-producer-directors.

The Laurel and Hardy cartoons had a long gestation period and never found their way onto NBC for reasons I don’t know. They had been in the planning stages in mid-1961 and character art was released to newspapers. By August, Harmon claimed 26 half-hours had been created (even though stories the following January said he was still looking for someone to voice Hardy). This unbylined piece, which reads like a studio news release, is from the Hutchinson News of July 22, 1961.

Bozo the Clown (Larry Harmon) is changing his voice a bit for his new animated series, “Laurel & Hardy,” due to be syndicated on TV this fall.
Harmon has been in love with Laurel & Hardy since he was a kid and has seen so many of the old time comedy films, he knows all the gestures of the fat man and the head scratching thin man by heart.
The only way Larry figured he could bring the two back to life was in an animated cartoon series He wrote some scripts and called the ailing Stan Laurel in Santa Monica. Harmon can mimic Laurel perfectly and when Laurel got on the phone he thought he was talking to himself.
The phone conservation was followed by a meeting with the great man and Harmon produced his scripts plus drawings of the proposed characters. After reading one, Stan admitted the script followed the old pattern perfectly.
Then Larry had dinner with Oliver Hardy’s widow, Lucille, and she glanced over the proposed drawings. “That’s my Babe,” she said.
However, Harmon didn’t cinch negotiations just like that. Laurel looked over the whole field carefully and seven months later gave Harmon the o.k. to go on with the series. Laurel liked Harmon’s youth, 35, and what he had done with Bozo the Clown, and above all, he said, he liked Harmon’s enthusiasm. After listening to Harmon, it’s easy to see why. Most of the time he is imitating Laurel’s high pitched squeaky voice, recalling old lines. And then he goes on and on about typical Laurel and Hardy situations.
“You must remember the fat man and tooth pick Laurel always had a story to tell,” Larry says. “Their shows weren’t simply a collection of jokes.”
It sounds as if Harmon could simply piece together old scripts for his series, but he isn’t doing that. Laurel is going to be story consultant so he can keep his finger on the show and keep it authentic and Harmon is going to do Laurel’s voice. At the moment Larry is still auditioning for the right man to speak Oliver Hardy’s dialogue.
To the uninitiated who may watch the Laurel & Hardy cartoons, Larry Harmon is the fellow who played Bozo the Clown for 11 years on TV. Mr. Harmon contributed the Bozo laughing record to posterity and his voice appears on more than 200 Popeye cartoons in addition to playing voices in Dick Tracy and in Mr. Magoo as nephew Waldo.

As a side-note, the voice of Salty the Parrot in the Sam Singer Sinbad cartoons of the late ‘50s sounds like Harmon, though I keep being told it’s Dal McKennon. To my ear, it doesn’t sound like McKennon at all. (Note: see Mike Kazaleh’s ID on this in the comment section).

In November 1965, Wolper Television Sales acquired the TV rights to Laurel and Hardy cartoons from Larry Harmon Productions and the estates of the comedians, and also signed a deal with Hanna-Barbera to make them. 156 cartoons were budgeted at $2,000,000, according to Broadcasting, which revealed the studio was still trying to cast Hardy’s voice. They finally got on television in 1966. They feature music from The Jetsons and incidental characters voiced by H-B’s usual stable, including Don Messick, Doug Young and Hal Smith. Here’s a trade ad for the cartoons from Broadcasting’s edition of March 21, 1966.

Unbylined newspaper stories in February 1962 related how the widow Hardy was in tears watching the rough cut of the animation. Laurel and Hardy fans likely would react the same way. The cartoons really are, to coin a phrase, “another fine mess.”


  1. If Creston Studios had been as good at selling their concepts as they were about writing their press releases, they might have lasted longer. The only series that made it onto the air was the KFS Beetle Baileys, and that was actually a sub-contracting project through Paramount Picutres, has they had done with the KSF Popeye shorts.

    (Clampett of course always had a million ideas, with only a handful ever coming to fruition, and he was perpetually late with his cartoons at Schlesingers, so it's not a shock to see his concepts never got off the ground, as for the L&Hs, I doubt the stories would have been better if the cartoons had been made four years earlier -- though for good or bad, we likely would have ended up with Stan and Ollie mouthing a bunch of Charles Shows' rhyming couplets, just like Huck, Yogi and the rest did in 1958-59 and the way the Bozo and even some of the Popeye characters did when Shows moved over to Harmon's studio in '59.)

  2. Geebus, I go off to do the research that interested me using the suggestion of a whole site with info from one of your last articles, and then it turns out you've done it pretty much simultaneously!

    What I did find was that the "New Hanna-Barbera" package had a pretty long initial period of advertisement for stations; there's one ad for it dated January 1963 in 'Broadcasting', which is nearly a whole year from when it was first publicised. It also apparently benefited well from being one of Screen Gem's only syndicated colour packages, since there are reports about it being marketed to stations as late as 1967 (the other show being marketed was Ruff and Reddy).

    I'm really not an expert on these older shows though, I'm just a yuppie who wants to sink her teeth into something that hasn't been looked at a whole lot. For all I know, I could be interpreting some stuff completely wrong.

  3. Big plans for Creston/TV Spots. Too bad Calvin and the Colonel put them out of business.

    For whatever it's worth, the voice of Salty the Parrot in those Sam Singer Sinbad cartoons is actually Jerry Hausner. Dal McKennon had quit working for Singer by then for the same reason everybody else did... no money. Singer tried to sell the Sinbad idea years earlier and even made a pilot cartoon. Dal did the voices in the pilot. Not wanting to let the footage go to waste, Singer used it for an episode of Bucky and Pepito (!)

  4. Here's Rod Rocket!

  5. Ruh-Roh! If Yowp is up to Wally, Touché, and Lippy… not to mention Laurel and Hardy, the end just might be near after all!

    I’d like to be the one to start the collective cyber-chant of “Don’t do it!”! Who's with me?!

    The great Hanna-Barbera (in my opinion) lasted until fall, 1965! That means there’s plenty of time and subjects to cover. Please consider it, won’t you!

    BTW, great piece, revealing lots of information that is new to me. That’s exactly what I’ll miss…

  6. Mike, thanks for your helpful and expert insight as usual. Hausner makes sense.
    Chris, thanks. I'd seen that before, with Hal Smith and Capitol Hi-Q music all over the place. What's baffling is how the project went from Jim Morgan and a company I've never heard of to Walter Bien at SIB and Scheimer/Sutherland's Filmation. Maybe Scheimer's book has the answer.
    Jade, the 1963 ad didn't come up in a search of "Hanna Barbera". I've now tried using "Lippy" as the search term and found it. So I've added it to the article.
    J.L., I was watching one of those dreadful Bozo cartoons and you can't miss Charlie Shows' dialogue.
    Joe, this post came about because I decided to search for some trade ads. The search also brought up the 1962 syndicated cartoon article and because there were cartoons I didn't know about, I felt it should be recorded somewhere. The L&H cartoons are an insult to the memories of one of the greatest comedy film teams of all time (if not the greatest) but because the cartoons were mentioned in the article and I found an ad for them, I augmented the post with the information.

    I keep wondering if Lippy the Lion morphed from Leo Durocher's name. Leo is, of course, a lion and Durocher known as "Leo the Lip" or "Lippy."

    1. Durocher and Lippy? From the studio that gave us "Roger Marble" (Maris), I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

  7. I've heard the Dal McKennon version of Salty (and Sinbad Jr, too, sounding like Archie) in the pilot film, but I really don't think that's Jerry in the regular series. Something about the inflections makes me think it could be Junius Matthews, but that might be just as wild a guess as any of the others.

  8. Sometimes owning one's image or intellectual property can be a very scary premise. I remember reading a few years back, Stan's daughter Lois Laurel attempted to create a webpage selling Stan Laurel memorabilia. Harmon had it stopped because at the time, HE owned the intellectual property and image of Stan Laurel....her dad. Scary

  9. The "Wally Gator"/"Lippy and Hardy"/"Touche Turtle" cartoons were shown on a daily half-hour series in New York (on WPIX-TV) in the fall of 1962- as "CARTOON ZOO". Milt Moss was the live-action host {and "Zookeeper"}, delivering live introductions to the individual cartoons [and commercials]. The setting he appeared in was, of course, a zoo, with "life-size" cardboard cutouts of Wally, Lippy, and Touche in "cages". This format lasted at least a year.