Wednesday 31 August 2016

Jimmy Dean Meets the Stone Age

TV cartoons characters don’t make too many guest appearances on other television shows. It isn’t like you can call up Hokey Wolf and say “Can you be a guest on Jimmy Kimmel tomorrow night?” After all, someone has to draw Hokey (and, somehow, I don’t think the Kimmel audience even knows who Hokey Wolf is anyway).

But it did happen on a rare occasion. Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear appeared on the 1961 Emmy telecast. And Fred Flintstone showed up on the season opener of Jimmy Dean’s variety show in 1963.

That friend of lovers of old animation, Mark Kausler, came across someone selling a print of the show and sent along these three screen grabs.

Mark points out the animation is by Ken Muse.

Here’s an animation drawing from the cartoon. It looks pretty snazzy.

Variety reviewed the show (broadcast September 19, 1963). It wasn’t impressed with what it saw.

Another bit of teaming the cartoon character of Fred Flintstone with Dean was sloppily handled with two separate introes and ran off as a familiar piece of trick photography.
Rick Du Brow of UPI wasn’t impressed, and said why:
A trick scene in which Dean dueted with the cartoon character Fred Flintstone was only fair, with the sound not perfectly pitched.
And Alan Patereau of Newsday snorted:
But technical achievement or no, who needs Freddy Flintstone, the cartoon neanderthal, paired with Dean in a song and dance of “Yabba-Dabba-Do”? I say pooh.
Frank Peppiatt’s book When Variety Was King talks a little about the origin of the sketch:
The Flintsones [sic] was also a big hit ABC show that year, so John [Aylesworth, a writer] came up with the idea of featuring Fred Flintstone as the guest on our first show. We wrote a sketch and a duet for Jimmy and Fred. The song was “Yabba Dabba Doo,” the catchphrase on The Flintstones. We sent the sketch and the music to Hollywood so they could get to work on the animation, which took care of at least six or seven minutes.
The Flintstones’ season premiere was 90 minutes before the Dean show aired. It featured a musical guest as well—Ann-Margrock.

My thanks to Mark for sending the frames for this post.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Yogi Bear: Investigative Reporter into TV Violence

Yogi Bear wasn’t a satiric show like Rocky and Bullwinkle, but it got in a few nudges every once in a while.

Insatiable nanny groups got plenty of ink in newspapers for years, “approving” television programming for somebody else’s children. And Yogi, likely through writer Warren Foster, got a chance to make his own little commentary on it in one of those short cartoons-between-the-cartoons.

Yogi tells us he’s about to investigate violence on TV, then turns on his set. Suddenly, the programming comes out of the set to attack him.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he moans in pain. “It’s there, all right.”

The irony is, within ten years, a cartoon like this would not be allowed to appear on network television. The Huckleberry Hound Show was praised initially for not being “violent” like Tom and Jerry, or Popeye. But organised do-gooders never stop once their goal is met. They just expand their targets. Hanna-Barbera became a target. Wave bye-bye to The Herculoids and Space Ghost, kids. Someone thinks they’re not suitable for you.

Joe Barbera complained in 1978: “Some of these groups don't know when to quit. If Chaplin or Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy were trying to do TV comedy today, they couldn't make it." And when he and Bill Hanna tried to revive Tom and Jerry in 1975 for television, Barbera told the Associated Press’ Lee Margulies “We ran into a stone wall, because some citizens for the protection of the children of the world have decided cartoons are evil, that they’re violent and full of mayhem. We showed (the network folks) five of the old Tom and Jerrys and they laughed so hard they had tears in their eyes. Then they said, ‘We can’t use them. If we put those on we’ll get killed.’”

So Tom and Jerry got emasculated for TV animation.

In 1968, Hanna and Barbera came up with a combination animated-live action The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at $100,000 per half hour. Syndicated newspaper writer Mel Heimer noted “There will be action, Bill and Joe promise, but not great violence.”

Emboldened special interests that knocked Frankenstein, Jr. off the air didn’t see it that way. Here’s a story that from the Chicago Daily News Service that appeared in newspapers on October 3, 1969. Ignore a few things, such as “we can’t give them the cartoons we gave them ten years ago” line. Ten years earlier, Hanna-Barbera produced Huck, Yogi, Jinks and Quick Draw. And ten years earlier, either Bill or Joe said the same thing about “sharper” kids; the earlier quote mentioned shows that were contemporary to the time. The New York Times, not Variety was the source of the “inked disaster” opinion. And while lauding Dick Dastardly and the Cattanooga Cats (neither was an original concept), there’s no mention of the one new character in 1969 that became one of the studio’s top money-makers of all time: Scooby-Doo.

(As an aside, did Bill Hanna really mean to say “Erotic things are permissible”?)

Young Television Viewers Tough, Demanding Critics

LOS ANGELES — To most people, a 7-year-old may be a runny-nosed kid, something people wash, clothe and get off to school on time, But to two of the nation's biggest cartoon makers, he's a sophisticate, a tough, demanding critic, a hip character, completely "with" today's music, and quick to be turned off by anything phony or treacly.
"We can't give them the cartoons we gave them ten years ago. The kids now are so much sharper. They've been exposed to the Beatles, Rowan and Martin, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason. They don't dig Snow White and Heidi. That older stuff is only okay today for a younger crowd — say the 3-year-olds."
The man talking is William Denby Hanna, 53, half of the team of Hanna-Barbera Productions, which this year will turn but six hours of network TV series weekly for CBS, NBC and ABC. That's exactly half the total Saturday morning programming of the three networks.
"Joe Barbera and I worked for MGM for 20 years, and we turned out 125 'Tom and Jerry' animated shorts — that's the equivalent of 48 minutes of cartoon time a year. A year. Less than one-sixth of our production now in a week."
MGM fired them both when people stopped going to movies and watched TV instead. They decided to concentrate on the medium that cost them their jobs. They came up with much less complicated techniques, particularly far fewer drawings, so they could cut a movie budget of $50,000 for a five-minute film down to $3,100 for television.
But having a technique didn't assure them of a product. So, backed by Screen Gems, they came out with the cartoon package, "Rough and Ready." [sic] It came out in 1957 and was snapped up by NBC. Then, came "Quick Draw McGraw and a big leap forward, "Huckleberry Hound," in 1959, quickly followed by "The Flintstones" in 1960 and "Yogi Bear" in 1961.
The prime-time "Flintstones" series was rapped by Variety as "a pen and ink disaster." It lasted six years at night, however, and then went right onto Saturday morning network showing and simultaneous around-the-world syndication.
"We put a big ad in Variety 'The sun never sets on "The Flintstones!" I think we're in 80 countries now," Hanna says.
But it probably was "Yogi Bear" that set Hanna-Barbera apart. It was immensely popular, particularly with the college crowd.
"I'll tell you why. Say the forest ranger would bawl Yogi out for doing something he shouldn't and. demand to know why he did it. Yogi answers, 'I'm a nonconformist bear.' And he was, and the young people were beginning to dig being nonconformists themselves."
Three years, ago Hanna-Barbera sold their ten-year-old firm to Taft Broadcasting for $10,248,567 cash and 60,000 of Taft's common shares. Hanna-Barbera became a division of Taft, retaining Hanna as president president and Barbera as executive vice president. (They shift the title of president back and forth). While the sale brought security, the team felt it also brought broadened perspectives.
"I don't feel I want to sit back and watch the butterflies," says Joseph Roland Barbera, also 53.
(The two-man team has been together 30 years. A top aide says the reason they get along so well together professionally is that they, don't see each other socially. "Joe is president of the Greek Theater. His idea of a good time is to go to New York and catch all the shows. Bill is much more informal. He'd rather sail to Catalina on his boat.")
The biggest problem the newly shaped company ran into was the sudden upsurge in anti-violence protests, not that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, Huck Hound or Yogi loved blood and gore — but the protests hit everybody.
Hanna-Barbera's "The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was given prime-time presentation by NBC last season only to suffer quick cancellation. It was H-B's first live action animated evening series.
"It was the reaction to the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and some of that reaction was understandable. But it became a little incredible. Our Huck Finn series wasn't like those plotless Japanese cartoons — unremitting violence, bea[s]ts, mechanical monsters destroying people and cities.
"We had completed 14 half hours of Huck Finn. I remember sitting in the projection room with top network people. 'The kids would love it,' they said. 'But you can't show it. The pirates are chasing those kids with cutlasses. You just can't do that anymore.' What else would a pirate chase them with? A stick of marshmallow or what? But you could see that was that. We had to throw the whole show out the window."
The flat anti-violence edict practically wipes out any serious effort at adventure series, Hanna says.
"You can't do adventure any other way. I read all the Tarzan books, all the Mars books, H. G. Wells, Zane Grey. Well, you can't do without weapons, guns, violence problems, I realize that some of the violence was unnecessary and uncalled for. I remember to my surprise seeing a cartoon where a bunch of people got killed. And it wasn't one of those Japanese things, either.
But the proscription against violence hasn't been all bad.
"Far from it. It forces us to be more imaginative. We can't use violence as a crutch, as a way of solving a plot problem. Our writing is becoming better. Take one of our new cartoons, "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines." They operate a very wacky World War I squadron. That sounds like violence sure enough, doesn't it?
"But there's no shooting. No guns at all. Dastardly and Muttley have a job of stopping an indestructible carrier pigeon from delivering messages across the lines. They never succeed.
"But what are their weapons? Well, we create an airplane with a huge vacuum cleaner in front of it, another with giant mallet, maybe another with a huge flyswatter. But they always miss. And the thing to remember is that none of these things is something a child can pick up. Erotic things are permissible because children can't find them.
"A writer had a gag where a machine gun spun around and cut off the tail or the wings. We eliminated the gun but not the gag. We had the propeller spin off and slice the plane up like a bologna slicing machine. It was very funny."
Hanna argues that slapstick-knockabout is perfectly okay and is not violence.
"When you have a cartoon character and two funny cars come together and they crash and all fall apart, boom, and in the next scene they're all back together again, nobody ever yells or gets hurt.
"That's pretty normal slapstick humor. And in doing it with cartoons it makes sense. Think of Laurel and Hardy, they did it and you never saw them with a gun or a knife. The same with Charlie Chaplin."
Nonviolence and humor can sell, too, and well.
"We introduced 'The Banana Splits' last year. Four rock musicians — Fleegle, Drooper, Bing and Snorky [sic] — in crazy costumes. They acted as hosts for a cartoon hour on NBC. This year they went to Hawaii for the state fair. And we just got a note from the fair boss saying they pulled in 100,000 kids and parents in just two days. Now you may never have heard of them. But the kids know them.
"This year we're introducing 'The Cattanooga Cats' on ABC. We got a young songwriter — Mike Curb — he's done more than 40 soundtracks, including pictures like 'Wild Angels,' 'Wild in the Streets,' 'The Trip,' 'Three in the Attic.' He's doing two new tunes. for each of 17 episodes.
"Too sophisticated, for a 7-year-old kid? Not a bit of it. They know every sharp music group. You can't play down to them. The cartooning we do with this fits the music. Short quips. Mod art. Fast moving patterns. Kind of an animated light show."
Hanna says the only sure way is to give kids what they like.
Remember, this story is from 1969. Things only got worse. Activists demanded cartoons be filled with ham-fisted propaganda, so they were. I suspect their intentions were good. They thought the world would be a better place if the television set taught the lessons that parents should have been teaching about social behaviour. Considering the state of the world today, the idea was a failure. Instead, they should have let cartoons on entertainment shows entertain.

Friday 26 August 2016

Marvin Kaplan, T.C. and Flunking English

How does one become a Choo Choo? Here’s how Marvin Kaplan put it to fellow comedian Gilbert Gottfried during a podcast about two months ago. He called getting the job “another fluke.”
In order to work for Hanna-Barbera, you had to audition. And the first one they auditioned for Top Cat was Michael O’Shea. Well, he’s a good man and a nice actor but he was not very funny. You gotta realise they were trying to do Bilko. They wouldn’t get Phil [Silvers] but they got Maurice Gosfield. Remember Moe?
Moe played Doberman [on Bilko]. He was the funniest man I ever worked with. I absolutely worshipped Maurice Gosfield. First of all, when he ate dinner, you knew exactly what he ate. When they were doing Bilko, they would go to an Italian restaurant beforehand and the guest actress was Kay Kendall. And Maurice ordered meatballs. And Phil, watching Maurice balance these meatballs, he said “He’s doing it without a net.”
Joe Barbera, in order to get a job for Joe, you had to audition. Now he had three guys under personal contract—a man named Daws Butler, a man named Don Messick, wonderful, and a man named Len Weinrib. If they couldn’t do your voice, you got the job. None of them could do my voice.
By now, you know that Marvin has passed away at the age of 89.

We have some clippings about Marvin’s early career on the Tralfaz blog. To sum up, in the late ‘40s, he was acting in a play in Los Angeles where he spotted by Katharine Hepburn, who got him a job at her studio, M-G-M, in her movie, Adam’s Rib. In 1951, he appeared with Sheldon Leonard in the movie Behave Yourself. Cy Howard saw a preview of the movie and teamed the two for a radio comedy with Sandra Gould. Leonard dropped out of the project and Eddie Max was brought in. The show was called The Three of Us. What happened next is explained in this story in the Baltimore Sun, October 31, 1954:

Comic Flunked His English
IF Marvin Kaplan could speak, he wouldn’t be the terrific success he is on CBS Television’s “Meet Millie.”
This paradox developed when Kaplan was teaching school at Brooklyn’s Midwood High School in 1946. He was a substitute teacher, and he was doing right well. For one term the students of his English class were able to hold their own with the children in similar English classes throughout the city.
“Then the bubble busted,” Kaplan says with a certain amount of chagrin.
“I had to take a speech test in order to attain the exalted rank of permanent teacher. I flunked.
Anything For A Buck
Rather than stay on as substitute Kaplan set his sights on the theater, playwriting, radio—anything that would make a dollar.
His flair for writing landed Kaplan one of his first wage-earning jobs. He became a reader for a motion-picture company.
“All I had to do,” he explains, “was read a book, write a 25-30 page synopsis and include my opinion as to whether it might make a good movie. I read ‘til I was blind and wrote until my fingers ached.”
Despite the fact that he is one of the “hottest” actors in Hollywood at the moment, Marvin still wants to be a playwright. He feels that an actor is good for a limited time while writers go on and on like old man river.
Credits Cy Howard
But how did this speech—flunking teacher become the reputable actor. In a two-word explanation, Kaplan says “Cy Howard.”
Cy Howard is a CBS writer-producer. At one time he was contemplating a domestic radio comedy show, and for the audition record, hired our hero. During a break in rehearsals, Howard was contemplating the type of character that Kaplan would play on the show. When Marvin told the producer that he wrote poetry, Howard gulped twice and said that he could be himself on the show.
Unfortunately the audition record never got past the recording stage. However, there was a bit of indecision on the “Meet Millie” show in the characterization department, and it was finally decided that the poet Alfred role Kaplan had created on the Howard show would be perfect for “Meet Millie.”
Kaplan then explains, “I was tried out for one week,” the character hit and Alfred Prinzmetal was born.
Does he enjoy doing silly-guy roles like Alfred? The question draws a dirty look from Kaplan.
Alfred to my mind is not a complete idiot,” he said. “He is typical of thousands of kids who are struggling for success but just lack the necessary talent to make the grade.
On he went to Top Cat, which lasted one season in prime time and forever in reruns. Arnold Stang, Allen Jenkins and the producers did publicity interviews for the show; Marvin seems to have been left out. Here’s a piece in the Chicago Tribune of October 14, 1961:
Hollywood's red-hot Hanna-Barbera studios have come up with another animated cartoon series, Top Cat, seen on channel 7 Wednesdays at 7:30 p. m.
A number of voices familiar to TV fans are heard as they supply the speaking parts for Top Cat and his friends. The star of the show, a nimble witted alley cat who lives in a roomy ash can with all the comforts of home, speaks with the voice of Arnold Stang. Allen Jenkins speaks for Officer Dibble, the only noncat character in the show.
Maurice Gossfield, Pvt. Doberman of the Sgt. Bilko shows, will be heard as Benny the Ball, Top Cat's chubby pal.
Others in the cast are John Stephenson, Leo De Lyon, and Marvin Kaplan.
"We chose alley cats as our heroes for a very simple reason," said Bill Hanna who, with Joe Barbera produced the series. "Cats are appealing and full of personality. Cats have real living problems — problems that people can easily identify themselves with. T. C. and his friends have a constant struggle to survive, but they also have a lot of fun with their freedom."
Hanna and Barbera are the fabulous partners who have come up with Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound, and The Flintstones in the space of three years.
The voice cast of Top Cat was just terrific. The music was great. The opening and closing animation was clever. The series itself didn’t, and doesn’t, do a lot for me, but it has a lot of fans. You can read more about Marvin Kaplan in the 2009 post. Better still, go to Mark Evanier’s blog. Read this remembrance of Mr. Kaplan. And be sure to go to this post, which also links to Kliph Nesteroff’s transcribed interviews with Marvin about his career. And you should be able to hear him with Gilbert Gottfried by clicking the arrow below.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, August 1966

The Flintstones newspaper comic gave Hanna-Barbera the perfect chance to give the movie The Man Called Flintstone some free publicity.

Variety announced on January 26, 1966 the film was going into production. It must have been rushed; it was revealed by the trade paper at the end of March that Paul Frees had been signed to do voice work, and the voice track is usually done even before any animation is started. The movie was released in August.

The August 14, 1966 Sunday comic was based on the movie. I like how the director is called “J.B.” Where have I seen those initials before?

The colour versions for this month 50 years ago were supplied by Richard Holliss. Dino is absent in all four comics and Pebbles isn’t central to the plot in any of them for a change.

August 7, 1966.

August 14, 1966. Fred shoots a hole in someone? Such violence! What about the children?!

August 21, 1966.

August 28, 1966.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Snagglepuss – Royal Rodent

Writer Mike Maltese found a way to populate the Snagglepuss series—by borrowing characters he had used in other series. Thus is it that Snagglepuss met up with the future Yakky Doodle; Snuffles, from the Quick Draw McGraw cartoons; the J. Evil Scientist family from the Snooper and Blabber cartoons and Bigelow the mouse from the Augie Doggie series.

Bigelow may be the least remembered of the lot. Basically, it was Doug Young doing a Jimmy Cagney impression. The tough guy mouse appeared with Snagglepuss twice, Yakky Doodle once and in three Loopy De Loop cartoons.

In Royal Rodent, the King (Daws Butler) loves cheese. So does Bigelow, who keeps stealing it. So the King hires Snagglepuss to get rid of him. Next follows some gags that seem like watered-down Warner Bros. material, followed by Snagglepuss scaring Bigelow out of the castle by telling corny jokes that would have had him booed off a small-time vaudeville stage. The cartoon ends with Snagglepuss hired as the court jester, whose jokes the King never hears after making sure he’s wearing ear muffs to block out the sound.

Snagglepuss is home writing the King when his servant comes to retrieve him for employment:

Snagglepuss: Dear Kingy, it doth behoove me—or is it “beehive me?” No matter—I’m writin’ you for the tenth time offerin’ my services in whatever capacity you deem my talents fit.

The gags:
● Snagglepuss puts out a piece of cheese outside Bigelow’s hole as bait, ready to bash him with a fly swatter when he emerges. “I’ll give him swat for! Who knows? I may even be knightied for this. Or pyjamaed even!” Instead, Bigelow saws the floor under Snagglepuss. Down goes our hero. Bigelow laughs and grabs the cheese. Reponsds Snagglepuss: “He who laughs last laughs who. Or he who laughs who he. Best laughs he who who he. Be, skip it.”
● Snagglepuss rolls a bowling ball toward Bigelow’s hole. The mouse pushes out a spring which sproings the bowling ball back and knocks down the King.
● “Come and get it! Free cheese for everybody!” shouts Snagglepuss, who then boards up Bigelow’s hole when the mouse runs to get it. Snagglepuss then slaps down on him with the fly swatter. Bigelow ends up in the King’s crown. You know what happens next. Like in an old Tweety cartoon, Snagglepuss tries bashing the mouse but clobbers the King instead.

● Bigelow challenges Snagglepuss to a duel (Bigelow with a sword, Snagglepuss with the fly swatter). Snagglepuss decides “to appeal to his sense of humour” and lets out with some groaners while they’re dueling. “Say, didja heard the one about the janitor’s son, didja? His father left home so the elevator man brought him up. Then there was the horse who ate the bail or wire by mistake. You know what happened to him? He went haywire!” That’s enough to scare Bigelow away. A couple of reaction drawings.

Also included in the dialogue:

Exit, anticipatin’ all the way, stage left.
Exit, do-it-yourselfing all the way, stage right.
Heavens to pincushion! (and there’s a murgatroyd in there as well)
What shall it be, a buckswashlin’ musketeer?

There seems to have been a real problem matching colours. Look at Snagglepuss’ head and arm (which move). They’re darker than his body (which doesn’t move).

There are no credits on the cartoon. The cartoon was Production R-76, the fourth of eight Snagglepuss cartoons to be put into production for the 1961-62 season. Documents from Leo Burnett, Kellogg’s agency, suggest this was the final Snagglepuss cartoon to air in first-run.

Bigelow has at least five head positions during dialogue. The characters roll their heads while talking on occasion, so Dick Lundy may be the animator. I like the design on the King’s attendant (played by Doug Young).

Hoyt Curtin’s music includes a few short pieces heard on The Flintstones. It sounds like there’s a lot of a bass clarinet in the underscore.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Cartoon Voice Acting Changed

Daws Butler never really stopped working until he died in 1988. If he wasn’t providing voiceovers, he was providing help and encouragement to the generation of voice actors that would follow him.

Daws’ heyday was the 1950s. The decade was bookended with A Time For Beany on one end and Rocky and his Friends on the other. In between were comedy records and radio shows with Stan Freberg, cartoon commercial work and, as we know, starring roles in just about every Hanna-Barbera series. Daws didn’t get a lot of starring work after 1960; Joe Barbera wanted to expand the studio’s voice repertory company and not rely on a handful of actors, so others were brought in. But he did his old characters when they were needed and originated a few new voices (some of which sounded similar to his old ones).

Best of all, Daws lived to see some recognition in the popular press for the great entertainment he provided. Here’s a feature story from the Associated Press that appeared in newspapers starting November 20, 1978. TV cartoons simply weren’t as good as they had been for a variety of reasons, and Daws reflects a bit on that.

Huckleberry Voice Stays In Hiding
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Daws Butler has been on TV 30 years. But viewers never see him acting in a show. Then who is he? Try Huckleberry Hound. And Yogi Bear. And Quick-Draw McGraw. And Capt. Crunch.
He's the voice of those cartoon stars of Saturday kid shows. Old kids now posing as adults heard him in the great Jay Ward cartoon era, in "Fractured Fairy Tales," "Aesop's Fables" and "Superchicken."
This man of several hundred voices currently has 15 playing in four Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows Saturday on all three networks. And he has another one coming at night to CBS on Thursday, Nov. 30.
It's for Andy in a holiday special, "Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Great Santa Claus Caper."
Butler, 62, a small, merry-faced man born in Toledo, Ohio and raised in Oak Park, Ill., doesn't regret he's never seen on his shows.
"I think maybe I was smart," he laughs." You're not typed this way. My whole bit is multi-voice. Of course, I tend to get confused by my own voice."
Daws never set out to speak funny. He wanted to write funny, inspired by such masters as Robert Benchley, H. Allen Smith, Frank Sullivan and Fred Allen, whose works fill his library today.
He's authored funny commercials, dialogue for a voice workshop he runs and, in the 1950s, co-wrote one of the first comedy record hits, "St. George and the Dragonet," with satirist Stan Freburg [sic].
But his voice, in that "Dragnet" spoof, remains his chief asset, though when at mikeside he also tries to do what he calls "writing on your feet." No, it doesn't mean his scripts have laces. It means he improvises, ad-libs and generally tries to make the character he's doing sound unique and spontaneous.
Butler, who began his career as an impressionist, was in radio after World War II with serious roles on such shows as "The Whistler" and "Dr. Christian." He started cartoon voicing at MGM later on.
He began in TV with Freburg in 1948 at KTLA here, in an Emmy-winning local puppet program "Time for Beany," which in its five years gained a show-biz reputation as a very hip kind of Punch and Judy show.
"It was full of Hollywood in-jokes," he recalled with a grin, full of sophisticated craziness that also marked "Fractured Fairy Tales" and the early Hanna-Barbera shows he did 10 years later.
There was a lot of freedom then to improvise, to experiment, he said, "because television was new and we were the people who had the answers. And they came to us and we gave the answers."
In effect, the inmates ran the asylum. Now, he said, a bit sadly, the advertising agencies and networks seem to want things tidy, carefully controlled and pasteurized. The unpredictable is a no-no.
Talent still abounds, he said, "but they're not allowed to do as much as they're capable of doing. It's the straightening out of the (cartoon) characters, of everything being so planned now.
"The excitement to me was having it happen in the studios. You were adding something to the product, putting something in the stew, and made it better." He seemed momentarily gloomy. His face brightened when it was suggested humor and satire seem to flourish when they seem most endangered. "Come to think of it, I'm doing dialect in a new show," he said. Although ethnic groups in the past have griped about the use of various dialects, he said he never uses dialect to make fun of anyone. "I always do it with love, but dialect has been taboo for about five years. So maybe we are getting our sense of humor back." He beamed. "Who knows, we could be in for a Renaissance."

Saturday 13 August 2016

The Jetsons – Elroy’s TV Show

TV is a vast wasteland, Newton Minow said. TV is too violent and tasteless, said numerous bluenose special interest groups. Well, in the future, that’s all changed.

Warren Foster’s story for Elroy’s TV Show is highlighted by a wonderful satire of what things would be like if Minow and the other do-gooders got their way, and television broadcast nothing but classical music concerts, live drama and nature documentaries.

Mr Transistor: I’ve just read these scripts you guys turned in as ideas for a new show. There’s not one of them worth doing. TV Geometry lessons! Chemistry course! Animals of the World! What are you trying to do to me?
Writer 2: Ah, but chief, those shows are all educational.
Transistor: Educational! Whatever happened to entertainment?
Writer 2: Well, we’ve been writing educational programmes for so long...
Writer 3: We’ve forgotten entertainment.
Writer 1: Our mission has been to educate people.
Transistor: You’ve educated them so much, they’re too smart to watch TV.
Writer 2: How about a cowboy series?
Writer 1: Or a doctor programme?
Transistor: Hmmm. It’s tempting, but we don’t dare start that stuff again. That’s what brought on educational programmes.
Later, at the Jetsons’ apartment:
Transistor: I’m Mr Transistor, president of Asteroid TV Productions.
Jane: Oh, I don’t watch TV any more. It’s over my head. Why don’t you bring back doctor and cowboy shows?
The plot’s easy to sum up. Transistor and his lazy writers see Elroy and Astro and picture a Lassie-type show. (“But, boss, it’s got to be educational.” “It is, it is! It teaches a lesson—be nice to your dog and he won’t bite you.”) Astro’s non-plussed about the whole idea but signs anyway. George decides to become Elroy’s manager and is such a pest, Transitor puts him in Elroy’s show, where he’s attacked by a robot. George quits and Elroy decides he’d rather go home and watch TV. Meanwhile, Spacely’s wife (Jean Vander Pyl does a great job with her snooty voice) demands that he get a TV show for their son, Arthur (Dick Beals in a very good outing). Arthur ends up taking over the show, pest Spacely gets put in the show and attacked by the robot. But he won’t quit. (“What? And give up show biz? Never.”). The robot attack continues off camera to end the cartoon.

Besides Foster’s great satire, I really enjoy the artwork in this cartoon. Art Lozzi painted some of the backgrounds from Dick Bickenbach’s layouts. The blue trees are pretty much a Lozzi trademark. And, yes, they showed the ground in part of the cartoon.

These two frames are the beginning and ending of a long background pan. Notice how the road is empty. Why is a road there anyway? In all the Jetsons cartoons, people drive in the atmosphere.

The same here. Lozzi uses a bit of yellow to break up the monotony of the blue colours.

More exteriors.

The last third of the cartoon takes place on Jupiter. I don’t know who did the backgrounds here but they’re great. Wonderfully bleak. Browns and purples. Here’s the start of another pan.

And here’s part of the rest of the pan snipped together. I couldn’t do all of it and make the colours match.

And more of Jupiter. Elroy’s dressing room is on an overlay, as is the slab of stone on the right side of the cave, as well as the big rock in the foreground of the last painting.

Inventions. There’s the televisor system to spy on workers, a nuclear-powered drone that carries drinks to your table, a radio communicator to speak to your child away from home (no need to dial a cell phone number), a masking film across a door that allows you to see the silhouette of a person to help you decide whether you want to let them in.

An electric train set is, naturally, in the air. Secretaries are robots (but still take coffee breaks). People travel from office to office in a pneumatic tube. And windows are automatically washed and squeegeed clean by pushing a button.

Some character designs. Arthur Spacely and his dog Zero.

The evil robot.

And Mrs. Spacely. Her diamond ring appears only when needed for a scene; it disappears the rest of the time.

I couldn’t tell you who animated this cartoon. My wild guess is whoever it was, they did the whole show. I didn’t see any variation in character drawings.

George doesn’t meet up with a traffic cop in this cartoon, but he does have trouble getting onto the freeway. I like how pieces of his car break off as he tries to shove his way into traffic.

George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Daws Butler and Janet Waldo are here, along with Don Messick in a pile of roles, the forementioned Vander Pyl and, of course, Mel Blanc as Spacely. There’s a screw-up in one scene where the wrong writer’s voice comes out of the wrong mouth.

Hoyt Curtin’s score perks along in the usual fashion.