Saturday 29 June 2019

Mugging and Smoking With Fred

Daring Dino? Ferocious Fred? Neither of the adjectives in front of those cartoon characters’ names seems all that appropriate. But who can argue with paying 75 cents for a mug with their mug on it?

In a way, a mug is appropriate. The original Flintstones cartoons were sponsored, for a time, by Welch’s Grape Juice, through the Manoff Advertising Agency. That happened starting in the 1962-63 season.

The series had a bunch of new sponsors for its fourth season (1963-64). Green Giant (Leo Burnett) and Best Foods (Lennen and Newell) also picked up sponsorship that year. Broadcasting magazine estimated the cost of production at $55,000 an episode, the same as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Donna Reed Show and Hazel. In 1964-65, the Jolly Green Giant took his ho-ho-ho elsewhere and was replaced by Motorola (also a Leo Burnett client).

The show began its life with the bills being paid by Miles Laboratories and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Miles was the maker of Flintstones vitamins, but that product wasn’t hawked in breaks on the cartoon show; it wasn’t invented until 1969 (the series ended in 1966).

These ceramic Flintstones ashtrays from the early ‘60s must have seemed appropriate for a show sponsored by a cigarette maker.

The fact that Winston cigarettes were pushed in between acts of The Flintstones is met with a combination of shock and disbelief today by people who weren’t around in the days when smoking was cool, not deadly. They can’t understand why cartoon characters were allowed to sell cigarettes. The reasons are simple.

a) The Flintstones was not a children’s show.
b) Cigarette advertising had a long history in magazines and on network radio.

Jack Benny sold cigarettes; his TV show had (for a while) a cute cartoon character named Happy Joe Lucky. Lucy and Desi sold them on TV, too. Arthur Godfrey sold them on radio. So did Abbott and Costello. Cigarette ads were ubiquitous. They were on all kinds of shows aimed at families. No one thought anything about it. I suspect something we do today will be looked upon as ghastly and unthinkable a few generations from now.

R.J. Reynolds bowed out after two seasons. ABC decided to sell participations in the show for year three, according to Sponsor of June 4, 1962. By September the network had signed contracts with five different advertisers, including Welch’s.

Interestingly, Miles Labs exercised its sponsor authority on the content of The Flintstones. Sponsor magazine of June 17, 1963 reported that “ABC network agrees it’s usual practice for Miles Lab to insist that The Flintstones contain no reference to ‘headache, upset stomach or the taking of remedies to relieve same.’” By this time, Winston’s had moved on to being advertised on TV for the first time in colour—by some animated matchbooks.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Hanna-Barbera is Ready (and Reddy)

Hanna-Barbera might not have become a huge cartoon empire if Sam Singer had been competent.

Back in the ‘50s, unlike some of the other movie studios, Columbia Pictures wasn’t afraid of television grabbing its audience from theatres. It saw large dollar signs instead. Columbia revived its Screen Gems name and pasted it onto a TV distribution subsidiary.

In 1956, the studio had shows like Jungle Jim, The Patti Page Show and Celebrity Playhouse on the air, but no doubt the studio saw the huge windfall the AAP cartoon packages were netting in syndication, and wanted a piece of the animation action.

That’s where Singer comes in.

His Tempi-Toons Company came up with a cartoon series made especially for television called “Pow Wow the Indian Boy.” In January 1957, a deal was struck for Screen Gems to distribute them to stations in 11 western American states. The problem was, as Joe Barbera recalled, the Pow Wow cartoons “looked like hell.” Screen Gems wasn’t happy with it.

Columbia had a theatrical distribution deal with UPA. Why not distribute UPA TV cartoons, too? Screen Gems officials had a look in March at a pilot film for Danny Day of the Knights, which UPA proposed as a one-a-day cliff-hanger serial for television aired over 26 weeks. The company wasn’t happy with that, either.

In the meantime, MGM was about to close its cartoon department and some of Barbera’s staff were working on a concept called Ruff and Reddy with the idea of selling it to TV. Barbera and Bill Hanna set up H-B Enterprises in July and began shopping around the dog and cat adventure serial. Their partner, George Sidney, head of the Motion Pictures Directors Association, got them an appointment at Screen Gems. Despite some opposition from Columbia boss Harry Cohn (Barbera recalled he thought a pencil test was a finished cartoon), the two companies inked a deal and Ruff and Reddy debuted on NBC on Saturday morning, December 14, 1957.

From that humble beginning emerged the TV cartoon powerhouse of Hanna-Barbera.

Saturday morning TV, in 1957, was a dumping ground. It was filled with old theatrical cartoons and filmed live action reruns aimed at kids. It’s a wonder Ruff and Reddy got noticed. However, syndicated columnist Stephen Scheuer found the show and wrote about it not too many weeks after it debuted. We’ve found another column about the show from the Tampa Bay Times of January 5, 1958. There’s no mention of Hanna or Barbera, or Screen Gems, and no byline, so I presume the copy was messaged from an NBC news release.

Big Cheeses In Cartoonland
THEY used to say it was impossible to produce cartoons for TV. It was too expensive and it took too long. But TV has done the impossible again.
"Ruff and Reddy," a new cartoon program produced specifically for TV, has started on WFLA-TV (NBC) 10:30 a.m., Saturdays. The highlight of the half-hour snow is the "Ruff and Reddy" four-minute serial made in the cliff-hanger style. In the first 13 episodes (NBC will play two per program) the two heroes, a cunning cat and a drowsy dog, are kidnapped by a flying saucer and taken to the planet of Muni-Mula (spell it backwards).
ONLY A HANDFUL of cartoon characters have ever created specially for TV. Ruff and Reddy follow the short trail of Crusader Rabbit, Tom Terrific, Pow Wow and Bert and Harry. The last pair, of course, was created for commercials rather than programs. And, as a matter of fact, the high cost of animation has mainly confined new TV cartoon production to commercials.
There are now almost 3,000 cartoons playing on TV stations, virtually all of them produced originally for theatres. About 900 of them were produced in the silent era and had music and sound effects added for TV airings.
There's a popular impression that the animated cartoon originated from the pen of Walt Disney back around 1930. The fact is that cartoons were already being shown in theatres when Walt was a kid. Animators such as Bray, Van Buren, Max Fleischer and Paul Terry were turning our [out] cartoons before 1920.
True, when Disney created Mickey, the mouse became the big cheese of cartoonland. During World War II, the cartoon's instructional genius was developed to the full for the armed forces training films.
After the War, new and streamlined animation systems were perfected by UPA and other cartoonists. It's these new techniques that make possible new cartoon production for TV.
LAST SPRING production plans were announced for about half a dozen new cartoon programs, but the only one to reach the light of the TV screen this season is "Ruff and Reddy," which is thus, if not rough, unquestionably ready, as well as being right up to the minute with its household pets taking off for outer space.
A year later, Hanna-Barbera was at it with a far more ambitious series, the half-hour Huckleberry Hound Show, which was boosted by loving critics and put the studio on a path to expansion.

Someone will mention it if I don’t, but Sam Singer went on to produce Sinbad, Jr. cartoons for American International Television. Something apparently went haywire, as Hanna-Barbera was hired to finish up the series (even the most untrained eye and ear should notice the different between each studio’s work).

Ruff and Reddy had two shots on the NBC schedule, ending in fall 1964, before the individual cartoons went into syndication (the network show included a human host and an old Columbia theatrical cartoon). We’ve found listings for R&R into 1973.

I’m afraid I’m not a fan of the series. Ruff and Reddy’s target audience was clearly pre-teen, with the cartoons written to wrap up the young viewer in the adventure. Hanna-Barbera’s syndicated series of the ’50s were out-and-out comedies and aimed at everyone. They strike me as more mature. Still, R&R has some good background art by Fernando Montealegre, the Capitol Hi-Q Library is used well, and you get to hear Don Messick and Daws Butler at work. And the Hanna-Barbera studio may never have gotten off the ground without it. With a little indirect help from Sam Singer.

Saturday 22 June 2019

Jinks in Space

Hanna-Barbera’s love of outer space wasn’t confined to The Jetsons’ debut in 1962. It started right at the beginning of the studio with the Muni-Mula serial which opened Ruff and Reddy on December 15, 1957.

Here’s an obscure example from The Huckleberry Hound Show. It’s from one of the cartoons after the main cartoons that urged us to tune in next week. Huck and his gang are in a rocket ship. Dixie pulls a lever which opens a hatch sending a sleeping Jinks into space. Fortunately, he’s got a parachute.

The animator gives Jinks a cross-eyed look in dialogue. You’ll notice the teeth fill the mouth in certain letter positions.

The meeces and then Yogi float past him upside down. You’ll notice how the noses and inner mouth are not black. They’re blue-ish to emphasize the fact the head is inside glass.

A sheepish Jinksie.

Silhouette Huck zooms past in the rocket.

Cut to Huck. His mouth doesn’t stay inside the space helmet in all the dialogue.

A Jetsons-like shot ends the mini-cartoon. The cameraman trucks into the background art and turns it so the shot isn’t static.

Another in-between cartoon involved a space ship. We talked about it a bit in this post.

Hanna-Barbera’s writers liked aliens, too. Pixie and Dixie met one in “The Ace of Space,” Huck tries to arrest one in “Cop and Saucer,” Augie Doggie had a little friend on the red planet in “Mars Little Precious,” and he and Doggie Daddy met up with an outer space rabbit-like thing in “Vacation Tripped.” Snooper and Blabber took on an “Outer Space Case,” while a fiendish alien plot involving a fake Yogi Bear was foiled in “Space Bear.”

There were space mission short cartoons as well, such as “Astro-Nut Huck” and “Price For Mice,” while “Space Cat” included a king mouse on some obscure planet that was tied into a spoof of space TV shows like Captain Video.

Considering all this, along with cartoons like “Ten Little Flintstones” and the unlamented series Space Kidettes, Hanna-Barbera got plenty of mileage (or perhaps “lightyear-age”) from using the cosmos as a setting in the studio’s first few years.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Flintstones Weekend Comics, June 1970

Hurray! Baby Puss is back!

Yes, Baby Puss, the cat that put out Fred at the end of every Flintstones episode. The sabre tooth tiger didn’t appear often in the actual Flintstones cartoons and seldom in the comics but he makes an appearance this month 49 years ago.

Before we get to him, let’s look back at the era of love, peace and protests. Hmm. That does seem like the Stone Age now, doesn’t it?

Flower Power? Demonstration? Wilma gets caught in a 1970 pun in this comic from June 7th. Nice to see Betty make an appearance. Note the ashtray next to Fred’s chair. This comic features Dino’s only appearance this month.

Baby Puss appears on June 14th. The ashtray disappears. This cartoon and the one next week have the comic’s name on a hanging stone sign.

We get a Yabba Dabba-Doo and some fat shaming on June 21st. Betty’s back in this week’s cartoon.

In the early days of the Sunday comics, Harvey Eisenberg drew some pretty funny monsters. We can’t really see the one in this comic, dated June 28th. Pops and Barney make their only appearance of the month.

Click on the comic to enlarge it.

Saturday 15 June 2019

The Best To You...

Kellogg’s bankrolled the first three half-hour Hanna-Barbera series in syndication. Not only did the shows plug Kellogg cereals in the commercial breaks, the sponsor was worked into the opening and closing animated credits.

Actually, for the first series, The Huckleberry Hound Show, there was a little more of a connection than that. The new Kellogg’s Corn Flakes mascot, Cornelius the rooster, appeared after the opening animation to knock on a door through which Huck would enter and begin the show.

Cornelius showed up in the opening as well, crowing, leading an elephant clarinet and then finally rising above the ground in a hot air balloon.

The sponsor’s name (with Art Gilmore doing the first-season voice over) opened the closing animation in a paper hoop that Huck, and then a jalopy driven by Cornelius, burst through, as the two picked up all the other Kellogg’s spokes-cartoon animals. When the cartoons were syndicated later by Screen Gems, the animation was re-done to substitute characters on the show.

The third series, The Yogi Bear Show, had a creative opening where Yogi drove the ranger’s jeep into a billboard and snatched the Kellogg’s lettering as he motored into the distance and then emerged from a second billboard, holding out the letters.

The closing saw Yogi in the ranger’s helicopter flying under the Kellogg’s letters, pulling a banner with the company’s slogan “The best to you each morning.” The banner disappeared in the next scene.

Naturally, my favourite is from the second series, The Quick Draw McGraw Show. Quick Draw is driving a stage. He cracks the whip to make his horses go faster (let’s not get into the horse vs horse debate) and it forms the Kellogg’s letters. His expression changes when the letters fall around his snout. He cracks the whip again and it gets wrapped around his head before re-forming the Kellogg’s letters. The eyes are great. My guess is Dick Lundy animated this.

The Kellogg’s name shows up again superimposed over the cloud of dust caused when Quick Draw skids the stage to a stop.

The sponsor returns in the closing as the bumpy road reveals the Kellogg’s slogan on boards at the back of the stage. The bouncing caused by the bumps then jars Baba Looey and a chest off the stage. Running behind, he and Quick Draw engage in a Senor Wences routine where Baba opens the chest, pops up and says “S’all-right!” before closing on himself. When I was a kid, I had never seen Senor Wences and when I finally saw him do his routine on Ed Sullivan’s show, I thought he had stolen it from Quick Draw.

The animation had to be deleted when Kellogg’s no longer sponsored the half-hour. I noticed the change as a young viewer and was very disappointed. Screen Gems began shopping around the cartoons in 1966, coincidentally about the time Hanna-Barbera was negotiating with Taft to buy it.

The way the sponsor was worked in was fairly creative and added to each of the series.