Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Paddling Faster

Poor Huckleberry Hound. Usurped by a second-rate group of cartoons.

Our last post here dealt with the end of the Huckleberry Hound Show, as Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems decided to test the syndication market away from a sponsored half-hour.

On Facebook, when I linked to the post, no one wanted to discuss that. They wanted to discuss the side note about Lippy the Lion and the other two cartoons syndicated with him.

Screen Gems sold the crap out of Lippy, Wally Gator and Touché Turtle. Two page ads—some in full colour—appeared in Variety, Broadcasting and other trade papers announcing the series and tallying up participating stations.

But, sorry, Mr. Twiddle. Sorry, Dum Dum. You guys just aren’t as funny as Quick Draw McGraw or Mr. Jinks. Your story plots are wearing thin. The late Earl Kress joked about how Lippy cartoons seemed to end with “Paddle faster, Hardy!” and the same Hoyt Curtin cue. Even the artwork and animation is far less inspiring than what the studio had been producing in 1958. The studio’s downfall had begun.

We’ve written about Touché and the rest in this post and this post. Let me leaf through some trade stuff from 1962 to fill in a few blanks.

But FIRST...

Lippy and Hardy (the hyena was a Mike Maltese creation, by the way) would have been on the air a lot sooner if Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and Screen Gems had their way. But they had a problem. This syndicated column from March 10, 1961 explains it:

Cartoons Require New Blood
Hanna and Barbera are having a terrible time. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, that is. They have three TV series on order and so far haven’t been able to grind out a single foot of film on a one. The problem is manpower. There isn’t any.
Hanna Barbera Productions is the biggest TV cartoonery in the business. They have made national heroes out of “Huckleberry Hound” and “Yogi Bear," and this season, have introduced the first half-hour, nighttime network cartoon series, “The Flintstones.” And “Yogi Bear” enjoys the added distinction of being the first featured cartoon character ever to be elevated to stardom with a show of his own.
ALL THIS is fine and dandy with Hanna-Barbera, but now problems are beginning to get in the way. ABC has asked for full speed ahead on a new cartoon show, “Top Cat,” and the company is now scouring the woods trying to find cartoon artists and writers who fit in with the Hanna-Barbera way of doing things.
Anybody can find a producer, director or writer for a human-populated film series, but cartoon writers are a special breed and cartoon artists are as rare at experienced comics under 40.
Screen Gems, the Columbia TV subsidiary which first gave Hanna-Barbera their start, has long wanted the pair to turn out two five-minute series, “Hardy Har Har” (a non-laughing hyena) and “Lippy the Lion.”
THE STANDING order is for 52 episodes a year of each series for a period of five years, the kind of order any ordinary cartoon producer would cut off his left arm to get. Yet all Hanna-Barbera can do it sit there and stare at it.
Every artist and writer they can lay their hands on is working overtime on “Huckleberry Hound” and “Yogi Bear” and “The Flintstones” and the development work on “Top Cat” is crawling along at a tired snail’s pace.
Youngsters with an eye on a TV career could do a lot worse than to enrol in a cartoon course. Apparently it’s the rarest talent there is and the field for good jobs is not only wide open but crying out loud for new blood.
A story on Mel Blanc by Fred Remington in the August 8, 1961 edition of the Pittsburgh Press reported on Mel’s almost-fatal car crash but mentioned he had been picked for the voice of Hardy Har Har. A Minneapolis Star piece from October 5th stated Bill Thompson would be “Tooshay Turtle,” Daws Butler would be Lippy and Wally Gator’s voice was still being sought.

Now to 1962:

Screen Gems has decided to go ahead and spend approximately $1,500,000 to put out a total of 156 new five-minute cartoons by Hanna-Barbera. The stanzas are meant for first-run syndication.
SG, the distrib in this case, figures there is a sizeable market for new animations via syndication even if the rest of the first-run syndie market is terribly shrunken. The 156 pieces are being broken down into groups of 52, one called “Wally Gator,” another “Touche Turtle” and the last “Lippy.” Naturally, SG syndication has not ruled out large regional deals, but it is likely to depend on station-by-station sales, with the expectation that there is at least one station in every market (particularly three-station cities) where the late afternoon specialty is kidvid and where animation is always in demand.
“Wally,” “Touche” and “Lippy” can be tied into half-hours twice weekly or can be shown as inserts in existing kid formats. (Variety, Jan. 31, 1962)

Seven stations, including a New York outlet, signed for the 156 new five-minute cartoons being made by Hanna-Barbera.
Stanza, distribbed by Screen Gems and due for fall use, was sold to WPIX, N. Y.; WTTG, Washington: KPTV, Portland, Ore.; WTIC-TV, Hartford; WGAL-TV, Lancaster, Pa.; WOC-TV, Davenport, Ia.; and KOVR, Stockton, Calif.
Cartoons, divided into three groups of 52 each, are called “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy the Lion” and “Wally Gator.” SG says that it’ll cost about $1,500,000 to make the new animations, breaking down to nearly $9,600 per spot. (Variety, March 7, 1962)

A total of 19 tv stations so far have signed for the newly made Hanna-Barbera syndie cartoons. The 156 five-minute episodes of “Tooche Turtle,” [sic] “Lippy the Lion” and “Wally Gator” went most recently to three outlets in the Westinghouse chain.
WBZ-TV, in Boston, KPIX, in Frisco and WJZ-TV in Baltimore— all part of Westinghouse Broadcasting, signed on for the full series.
The nine others last month to purchase the H-B product for fall start were: WXYZ-TV, Detroit; WEWS. Cleveland; WDAF-TV, Kansas City: WCCO-TV, Minneapolis; KGMB-TV, Honolulu; WTVW, Evansville; WBNS-TV, Columbus; KCPX-TV, Salt Lake City, and WNDU-TV, South Bend. (Variety, May 9, 1962)

KCOP will expend $175,000 for unlimited runs of three new all-color cartoon shorts from Hanna-Barbera. Original asking price was $2,600 per title but understood KCOP paid around $1,200. Titles are “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy The Lion” and “Wally Gator.” (Variety, June 21, 1962)

KCOP will open the station earlier Monday morning to preview three new Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Starting at 7:30 a.m., the three five-minute color featurettes will be shown for the first time on tv. They are “Touche Turtle,” “Wally The Gator” and “Lippy the Lion.” Beginning Sept. 2, they will be seen as a weekly strip at 6:30 p.m. (Variety, August 24, 1962)

Screen Gems has added 17 markets in its syndicated sales of 156 five-minute Hanna-Barbera cartoons, “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy The Lion” and “Wally Gator,” the first made expressly for syndicated release by H-B. Bringing the total national sales to 51, new deals were made with WTEN, Albany; WCIV-TV, Charleston; WTVC, Chattanooga; WTVT, Washington, N.C.; KLFY-TV, Lafayette, La.; WWL-TV, New Orleans; KMID-TV, Midland, Tex.; WJRT, Flint; WHO-TV, Des Moines; KETV, Omaha; KARD-TV, Wichita; KBTV, Denver; KNTV, San Jose; KVAL-TV, Eugene, Ore.; KROL-TV, Reno; and KING-TV, Seattle.
Screen Gems also locked up three stations of the Newhouse chain for its latest package of 73 post-1950 Columbia films to bow on television. Newhouse group of WSYR-TV, Syracuse; WAPI-TV, Birmingham; and WPTA, Harrisburg, follows on the heels of a sale to the four CBS o&o’s in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. (Variety, October 31, 1962)
KCOP’s decision to buy the cartoons (at a cut rate, it seems) was part of a $2 million revitalisation of the station’s schedule by new company president John Hopkins (Broadcasting, August 6, 1962). It aired the cartoons as part of an umbrella show hosted by Beachcomber Bill Biery from 6:30 to 7 p.m. beginning September 3rd. It appeared opposite a bunch of newscasts, “Cartoon Express” on KHJ-TV and an improbable combination of “Space Angel” and “Mister Magoo” on KTTV.

Of course, cartoon stars aren’t just cartoon stars to Bill and Joe. They’re tools of tie-in commerce. Billboard revealed on September 1st that Golden Records had released a mixed chorus EP with songs about the Hanna-Barbera characters, mainly all the new ones appearing on TV. “Cute stuff, though it lacks the punch of the actual voices of the animal personalities,” opined the publication. Touché and Dum-Dum later appeared on a Hanna-Barbera Record about the tale of the Reluctant Dragon. There were Hallowe’en costumes. There were comic books, colouring books and story books. (And the prices!)

Who isn’t a sucker for board games? Okay, who that grew up before the internet isn’t a sucker for board games? Transogram put out a Lippy game. Lippy wore a crown in his first model sheets.

Transogram made Wally Gator and Touché Turtle games, too.

The cartoons lasted longer than the merchandise. Was there a time for the first 35 years after they first appeared that they were off the air? I doubt it.

As much as I appreciate people like Daws Butler, Art Lozzi and Mike Maltese, the five-minute shows didn’t really make me laugh. The Wally-Lippy-Touché cartoons were just kind of there. It’s a shame they weren’t more than that but, as you’ve just read, Hanna-Barbera was overtaxed. With a huge workload, some fine artists did the best they could. Sometimes, you just can’t paddle faster.


  1. The TOUCHE TURTLE SHOW, as the fifteen-minute daily show was titled in Milwaukee, aired in the 6:00-6:15 PM show right before the local news for FIVE YEARS from 1962 through 1967 on Milwaukee's WITI-TV! Even I stopped watching after a while, so I had no memory of it lasting that long till I found old TV listings online. I am relatively certain that the cartoons also saw service as segments on the station's CARTOON ALLEY featuring (weatherwoman) Barbara Becker and puppeteer Jack DuBlon at some point, supplementing or replacing the AAP Warner Bros. and Popeye cartoons, meaning, by my calculation, that each cartoon aired FIFTY TIMES. Oh, dear! I would guess they went through more than one print of each one. What's remarkable about this is that no one thought it was odd programming at that time for what eventually became permanent news property. (Even though they aren't great cartoons, I'd still like to own a DVD set of them, if only because of the voices and the character designs.)

  2. I just read the Halloween costume thing. Imagine the poor kid who had to be satisfied with a Mr. Twiddle costume! Yikes! Luckily, every costume had the character's name on it in big letters, so people wouldn't have to stare blankly at the kid and ask, "And who are YOU supposed to be?" Of course, "Mr. Twiddle" wouldn't have rung too many bells either.

  3. As an elementary school aged kid, Huck, Jinx, Yogi, Quick Draw and their ilk had me laughing out loud. Touche, Wally, and Lippy and other H-B characters introduced around that time were something I found myself staring at, something to fill up 30 minutes out of my day, but I never really laughed. The early H-B characters had subject matter, little side comments here and there that could appeal to college students and older adults. Animation for the younger viewers. I called it the Warner Brothers method. My Dad always referred to the Looney Tunes as writing for the adults, animation for the kids.

  4. That's Lippy's standard beat-up stovepipe hat on that board game cover, rather than a crown. It's just open completely at the top instead of the standard lid effect. It looks vaguely like the chapeau of one Jughead Jones.

  5. I agree with Erroll! And you can ALWAYS ask ME about MY opinion on the title, THE NEW HANNA-BARBERA SHOW or whatver for the Wally/Touche/Lippy show which obviously just should have been called THE WALLY GATOR SHOW. Or some variaiton on that.

  6. Even as a kid, I noticed there was a difference in the drawing style between these Hanna-Barbera cartons, and the ones that had appeared on the Huck-Quick Drew-Yogi shows (even though based on the copyright dates, the last of those were still coming off the assembly line as the first of the new cartoons were being made). The style would pretty much dominate the studio's efforts in their short cartoons all the way to the end of the 1960s.

    The other notable thing here is that while Screen Gems may have spent a lot of money promoting the series, they and H-B never designated a lead character and did opening and closing titles with them, let alone the bridging segments the earlier shows had. WPIX in New York tended to show the Wally Gator episodes first in their 30-minute, so it was sort of 'his' show, but there was no special introduction other than the titles placed on each individual cartoon, and certainly no interactions between Wally, Touche, and Lippy and Hardy.

    Given a little bit more effort, the characters might have worked, since they were going off the same type of proven personalities Bill & Joe had used for some of their previous characters -- Maltese's Hardy was Mel's "Happy Postman", Wally was Ed Wynn and Touche was a less laid back Wallace Wimple. But with they and Screen Gems' eyes being more on prime time than on syndication, the weaker stories and personality development and less-appealing character designs made the series forgettable (They'd actually do better on addressing the first two problems with the first dozen or so episodes of Magilla Gorilla, which went into development when Hanna-Barbera only had "The Flintstones" left as a continuing series. They had more time to develop better characters there, though the quality went into the dumpster by the time the series moved to ABC).

    1. Here on various stations in California, Wally's status as first was the same thing. See my above comment.:) I'd just run them as WALLY GATOR SHOW if I owned some station.:)

  7. I can vouch for KING-TV, Seattle. That's where I grew up. Channel 5 was the NBC affiliate. I remember watching Touche Turtle, Wally Gator, and Lippy & Hardy on Channel 5 in the late afternoons/early evenings. I believe they aired right after Stan Boreson. If you have to ask "Who was Stan Boreson?" you obviously did not grow up in the Northwest (and consequently had somewhat of a deprived childhood, because every one of our local stations had its own amazing children's show host). As a very small child, I loved watching the antics of Touche, Dum-Dum, Wally, Mr. Twiddle, Lippy the Lion, and Hardy Har Har. I was young enough not to be overly critical. All the same, these were not as big favorites as Huckleberry, Quick Draw, and Yogi.

    Another thing these three series have in common is that, unusually for Hanna-Barbera at the time, NONE had a memorable, singable theme song. The theme music was short and did not truly describe the characters the way other H-B theme songs did. They were OK theme songs, but not as catchy as the Yogi Bear, Top Cat, and Flintstones themes.

  8. I’m gonna throw a little love at Lippy, at least!

    Two or so years ago, I got a bootleg DVD of all the Lippy episodes (Thank you for making me flout the law, Warner Home Video!), and enjoyed them immensely – having not seen the characters since early-mid-sixties airings on the various WPIX New York human-hosted kiddie shows!

    The voices by Daws and Mel are still great! The Maltese (and Foster?) scripts are still good, for something that had to be churned-out in large numbers in little time! The character designs were also still good – and (very important) still recognizable AS Hanna-Barbera characters! (That began to change during Magilla Gorilla – and reached its low point with Hong Kong Phooey!)

    If anything they were TOO QUICK, running about five minutes vs. the usual seven-or-so!

    But Lippy and Hardy had a good character interaction – optimism and pessimism personified, and were “all-purpose enough” to fit nicely into ANY situation… You know, like that Blue Hound of some years sooner!

    But, something I noticed was that, while by this time EVERYONE was trotting-out old and tired cartoon plots – especially Warner Bros., Lippy and Hardy did some things you didn’t see on every other cartoon show!

    Like becoming caretakers for a cantankerous “Yosemite Sam-Type” in a motorized wheelchair, posing as Golf Pros, evicting the “Lost Dutchman” from the “Lost Dutchman Mine” (which ol’ Dutch wonderfully sign-posted as “Mein Mine”!) and the most amazing thing of all for a presumed-kiddie-level cartoon… acting as process servers to a gangster! I can still recall asking “What’s a subpoena?”, when I first saw that one as a kid!

    Sure they met their share of Pirates and Mad Scientists, and other well-worn situations that would cause Hardy to “paddle faster”, but it seemed to me that there was still some of that great H-B spark in this series that wouldn’t become fully extinct until the ‘70s Sat AM Network years!

    Give Lippy and Hardy another look and see! We’ll look the other way, if you, too, must resort to a bootleg! …Thanks again, for the Sour Persimmons, Warner!

  9. Have most of the HB cartoons they are classic my all time favorites are Shazzan and the Arabian Knights from the Banana Splits Show.