Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Fighting Cartoon Rigor Mortis

It was a great story, maybe a better story than in any of their cartoons. Two guys unceremoniously shunted out of the door, overcoming rejection after rejection to become a huge success, making history in winning an Emmy and, now, coming up with a brand-new gimmick—a prime-time cartoon series that wasn’t for kids.

No wonder linotype machines across the U.S. clattered away with the story of Hanna-Barbera in 1960.

Here’s one from the New York Post, July 5, 1960. It’s not only plugging the coming debut of The Flintstones, but it’s nibbled at the bait of the riches-to-almost rags-to-riches story of the studio.

This story mentions a few Flintstoney things that must have been part of a publicity handout, things I keep going “hunh?” about. There’s a reference to the Young Cave Men’s Association. I don’t recall it ever showing up in the series. The story also talks about an “adobe hut.” I always thought the houses in Bedrock were made of, well, bedrock, with a slab roof. And this is yet another story that refers to Fred’s car having fins. Did it ever? I can picture Ed Benedict designing cars with them.

Poor Bea Benaderet’s name gets misspelled once more. Maxie Rosenbloom appeared in the prowler episode. For years, I thought it was Alan Reed, who used to do a Maxie Rosenbloom type voice. Rosenbloom auditioned for Top Cat but lost to Arnold Stang.

On the Air

When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera got their walking papers from MGM three years ago, they had every reason to believe they were "all washed up."
Rigor mortis had set in on the animated cartoon industry.
"For 20 years," said Barbera, "we'd been doing the 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons for MGM. We never missed a year for 18 years being nominated for an Oscar. We actually won seven Oscars.
"But MGM said there was no longer any market in motion pictures for cartoons.
"We went around to the TV industry and they said there was no place in TV for cartoons—new ones, at least.
"We couldn't believe it. They were still playing back stuff from the movies which was at least 20 years old. Fortunately we were able to come up with some new characters which made the old stuff look even older."
● ● ●
In Hollywood Hanna and Barbera were running the biggest animated cartoon studio in the world.
"Huckleberry Hound," the most successful TV character, had an Emmy award as the season's "Best Children's Show."
"Quick Draw McGraw" and "Ruff and Reddy" were also prospering.
In addition, Hanna and Barbera were hard at work on the first animated cartoon series aimed at an adult audience, "The Flintstones," which will run in an 8:30 p.m. Friday time slot on ABC next fall.
"We owe it all to 'Huckleberry,'" said Barberra [sic]. "'Huck' somehow picked up an adult audience as well as the children. The Yale Alumni magazine chose it as a favorite show. The Navy named a Pacific Island after it. Somebody suggested an adult cartoon. That's how 'The Flintstones' came into being.'"
● ● ●
Tentative fall schedules of the three networks promise nothing strikingly "new" in TV fare. "The Flintstones," at least, looms as something remarkably "different."
"The Flintstones" are a Stone Age family that runs into the same social pressures as those confronting contemporary split-level society.
"It's something of a satire on our modern society," said Barbera.
They wear "skins," of course. The ladies' skins are "beaded."
"At first, we had them in modern dress," said Barbera, "but they looked too much like TV commercials."
A TV antenna juts up from the roof of the family's adobe hut. Fred carries a flip-top lighter which, when it opens, consists of two crossed twigs. He belongs to the YCMA (Young Cavemen's Assn.). He works for the "Rockbed and Quarry Cave Construction Co." as the operator of a "dinosaur" (which works like a construction crane).
Fred's car has rock wheels and "fins." The family also has a convertible (with thatched roof). The family breakfasts on "dodo eggs." They share a "swimming pool" with their neighbors, "The Rubbles." In the first episode, Fred holds a "cook out" in the backyard.
"We're getting a wonderful opportunity in this for satire," said Barbera. "Up to now, we've always done animals. We never considered the great possibilities of portraying humans. "There'll be a little bit of everybody in it."
The "voices" are being recorded by such veterans as Bea Benadaret (of the George and Gracie series), Mel Blanc, Maxie Rosenbloom.
● ● ●
It would seem that Hanna and Barbera took those MGM walking papers and walked off with the TV cartoon market.
"Since we sold The Flintstones,'" said Barbera, "about 30 pilot projects for animated cartoons have been put on the market. The imitators are growing every week.
"We don't, of course, know where they're going to get the necessary artistic help. We've already employed practically all the top talent in town, including the staff we worked with at MGM."


  1. The prowler still sounds like Reed's voice for Dum Dum he used in the Touche Turtle cartoon (or the Filmore the Bear voice in the Hoppity Hooper pilot), Maxie Rosenbloom reference or not. (and at least Bea only had her last name misspelled once in the story here, as opposed to botching her first name for a half-season in the titles on the Burns & Allen Show).

    1. I can only imagine what Rosenbloom's audition for Top Cat must have sounded like.

    2. YOWP, Alan Reed did indeed voice the prowler. This is a mistake. Maybe Rosenbloom recorded his lines and HB scrapped them, because they were not happy. Alan Reed was redoing Bill Thompson's dialogue anyway. Bill and Joe just asked: "Alan, how about you do the prowler as well." I think some newspaper also wrote that James Darren did his dialogue for ''The Flintstones'', but it's unmistakable Lennie Weinrib's voice.

    3. Yeah it's unmistakably Alan.

  2. Wasn't the Young Cave Men's Association mentioned in "The Swimming Pool"?

    1. I'm pretty sure it was either that one or "The Flintstone Flyer" and I think it was Barney who referenced it. I'd have to re-watch the early episodes to be sure, but I definitely remember the gag.

    2. Yes, now that I think of it, the YCMA was one of the groups that Barney filled the joint pool with.

  3. What's with the "overuse" of "quotation marks" in the "article"?

    1. Maybe they "like" them "a lot" at the New York "Post."

  4. A Pacific island was named after Huck? I thought it was an island in the Antarctic.

  5. "YMCA" was mentioned in the episode with "Grandma Dynamite".

  6. A similar "cigarette lighter" was in the Warner Bros. cartoon short "Pre-Hysterical Hare"

  7. Re: Maxie Rosenbloom: I knew little to nothing about him when I was a kid, but I knew the name, somehow, probably just in random mentions of his boxing career; I didn't know he was also an actor after he retired from the ring. But I knew it for a more important reason, which was his nickname: "Slapsy" (which I didn't know was derived from his style of boxing, which was to slap his opponents with the open-palm of his glove), which I thought was a funny name for anybody.

    That nickname ALSO inspired the name of the Kellogg's Sugar Smacks cereal mascot seal who is among those characters who guest in the original closing credits of the HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW (along with Cornelius, Tony the Tiger, Tony Jr., Sugar Pops Pete and Snap, Crackle and Pop), which for me, made them all official H-B characters too. Though I've never been able to nail down any corroborative proof of it, without ever really knowing who Rosenbloom was, I have a distinct recollection of hearing Smaxey originally called "Slapsy Smaxey the Seal"--which makes a LOT more sense than the simply them naming him "Smaxey," which is what it was boiled down to right before he was replaced by Quick Draw on the box. There is no "x" in "Smacks," but there is in "Maxie"--and what animal can be more "Slapsy" than a seal that literally slaps the ground when he walks? If that commercial still exists, it's not currently online.