Saturday, 10 August 2019

Hanna-Barbera Fans Write Back

Is it possible to fairly compare cartoons made by Hanna-Barbera and the Jay Ward studios?

I don’t think so. The two studios had a different attitude and pace. The Hanna-Barbera cartoons were fairly gentle in their satire. They were twice as long as the Rocky or Peabody episodes so the pace was more leisurely. When Mike Maltese arrived at H-B, he seems to have liked quirky dialogue as opposed to the set-up/punch-line style found in some Rocky cartoons.

Differences were more pronounced when The Flintstones debuted in 1960. That series was a half-hour sitcom, so the format bore no resemblance to what Ward and Bill Scott were doing. The satire was not really direct; it was based on transposing familiar things in everyday life to what their equivalent would have been in another era.

One critic not only dared to compare them, he decreed that The Flintstones was simply not funny. Not only that, he was so intellectually lazy, he never checked his facts of the shows he was commenting on. Hanna-Barbera fans pounced on him.

Let’s give you the original story and the follow up. The following appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal of March 23, 1961. His praise for a Bert Lahr-esque lion in a Fractured Fairy Tale is particularly ironic, considering he couldn’t name the Hanna-Barbera character with the same voice from the same voice actor.

What's Adult Cartoon? 'Rocky' May Be, 'Flintstones' Isn't
Journal Radio-TV Writer
Once upon a time there was a cruel lion (he talked like Bert Lahr) who ruled his kingdom and subjects with an iron paw. One day when the king — a devoted butterfly collector — chased a prize specimen into a cave, his subjects rolled a huge stone over the mouth of the cave, sealing in the cruel king.
The butterfly escaped through a small crack, but the lion remained imprisoned and everyone lived happily ever after. The moral: "A rolling stone gathers no moths."
THAT'S a sample of the sort of tom-foolery which can be seen these Sunday afternoons on "Rocky and His Friends," an ABC-TV cartoon series.
"Rocky" is, to my notion, the best "adult-minded" cartoon seen on television. The key phrase is "adult-minded." It implies a cartoon series can contain little subtleties which will escape children but provoke a response from adults.
For the intellectuals in the crowd, I'm willing to concede any and all cartoons basically are children's fare and it's some sort of infantile regression which causes adults to watch them.
BUT WATCH 'em they do, and that's why I'm staking a claim for "Rocky" as generating the most appeal for child-like adults like myself.
I don't expect to win any converts from the "Flintstones" or "Yogi Bear" crowd. I have friends who collapse on the floor in gales of laughter when Wilma Flintstone hauls out her Stone Age vacuum cleaner (a baby elephant tied to a forked tree branch) or when Yogi sprints about Jellystone Park yelling "Exit, stage left."
I CAN only smile indulgently at such times and recall the really sly, sophisticated fun to be had with "Rocky and His Friends." Rocket J. Squirrel bolts about the skies in a Tailspin Tommy helmet and goggles (he's a flying squirrel). His sidekick is Bullwinkle, an Elks lodge caricature of a moose who talks like Red Skelton.
Then, there's Boris Benenoff [sic], the world's most inept spy, and his girl friend, Natasha — a Charles Addams beauty.
Rocky and Bullwinkle spent many episodes battling Boris and Natasha for possession of the Flying Mountain, a piece of landscape containing a secret, anti-gravity mineral called Upsy-Daisyium.
Then, there's Peabody and his time machine. Peabody is a canine Rhodes scholar who uses his time machine to recreate significant historical events. For instance, William F. Cody was hired by the railroad on a monthly retainer to supply buffalo meat for work crews. On the first and 15th of each month, Cody showed up to collect his buffalo bill.
So much for Rocky. If you're not convinced of his adult appeal, I'll leave you to Fred Flintstone and his artless ways.
YOU CAN'T quarrel with success, but it seems to me "The Flintstones" is the most overrated show on the television schedule this season. That's a minority opinion, though, since the Hanna Barbera series is the No. 4 or No. 5 entry among the top-ranked, depending on what survey is listed.
Before Fred and Barney made their entrance last Fall, Hanna Barbera advance publicity defined the show as "an adult-aimed situation comedy in animated cartoon form."
I've watched "The Flintstones" only two or three times, but from that sample, there's little to separate it from other sappy, contrived situation comedies which can be seen on television...except for the animation. And that leaves it strictly in the children's realm.
PUBLICITY advances also termed "Flintstones" a satire on modern suburban life. If there's satire there, I missed it. Nobody ever accused Jackie Gleason of being satirical.
More recently, Joe Barbera has been quoted as saying, "We never said 'Flintstones' would be adult. That was all part of a publicity buildup. Nowhere in the format did we promise people an animated New Yorker magazine."
I'm glad he straightened that out. Some of us were beginning to think we weren't adult enough to understand "The Flintstones." I was on the verge of asking my son to explain it.
The fans had their say. Here’s what they told the paper in its edition of March 23rd.
Radio-TV Mailbag
Giving Credit to Snagglepuss

Journal Radio-TV Writer
DEAR MAILBAG: After reading your column of March 12, I decided to write you a short letter to let you know that you made a slight (?) error.
You said that Yogi Bear sprints about Jellystone Park yelling "exit, stage left." That isn't Yogi. but a mountain lion named Snagglepuss.
Maybe Yogi Bear and the Flintstones are not adult cartoon entertainment, but they are a change from the westerns which seem to be on constantly. YOGI BEAR FANS.
DEAR MR. SHIPLEY: I've watched the Yogi Bear show and the mistake was Yogi does not run around Jellystone Park saying "exit, stage left." A lion named Snagglepuss does it. I agree with you about Rocky being the "adult" cartoon. BILLY PETERSON, (Age 8), Copley.
Dear Fans and Billy: I plead guilty as charged to exceedingly bad reporting. I accepted somebody's word that Yogi is responsible for "exit, stage left" without bothering to check the source of the quotation.
At the time of evening when Yogi is filching his goodies, I am usually distracted by the Texas catch-as-catch-can wrestling match which breaks out in front of the TV set each night in my home. It's a lame excuse, but the best I can manage.

DEAR MAILBAG: I never fail to read your column, and I almost always agree with your opinions. In one of your recent columns, however, you .. said you don't feel cartoon shows such as "Huckleberry Hound," "Yogi Bear" and "Quick Draw McGraw" are adult in humor.
I think that a child should scarcely be expected to understand the joke when the note in Aladdin's Lamp is signed "Genie With the Light Brown Hair," or when the bull is named "El Gorito," or when one of the announcer's lines goes something like this: "Then fickle fate inflicted a fiendish fiasco in the form of El Tobasco"...
Or when Quick Draw disguises himself as an insipid-looking cowboy and the telegram which comes the very next minute reads "Dear Insipid," or when El Kabong says he was late because he had to tune his kabonger.
True, some of the humor is not very adult, but let's give credit where it is due! I wouldn't miss Quick Draw or any of the others. MARY WILSON, Akron.
Dear Mary: To be specific, I stated "The Flintstones" was not an adult cartoon. It depends solely on the "cute" visual effect. There are no "adult" cartoons as such. All appeal first to children. Then they may throw in something, an occasional line of dialog, which would amuse adults.
In any case, I'll make this prediction: By this time next year you'll be sick of network cartoon shows in prime evening time. Knowing television's passion for me-too programming and its low estimate of the mentality of American viewers, we'll be up to here in cartoon shows.
There was one other annoyed letter in the April 6th edition which is kind of a post-script. It would appear the columnist ended up a little battle-fatigued at the end.
DEAR DICK: I don't specialize in throwing $75 words around as your average reader wouldn't comprehend it. So I'm going to put it so simple even you can understand it.
Firstly, I wholeheartedly don't agree with your statement that the "Flintstones" is not an adult cartoon. One merely has to listen to the dialogue, similar to the obsolete "Honeymooners," to realize it doesn't sound like the hanky-panky of Yogi and Doggie Daddy. Furthermore, it's shown at 8:30 p. m. for adult viewing.
The man who thought up this refreshingly different type of entertainment has plenty on the ball. It sure breaks the monotony . . .
Thank heavens they're going to bury "White Fang" and "Soupy Sales" or I'd wind up with a pack of stuttering, bumbling idiots. If "stuttering" and sounds of inebriation and nuthouse characters is all other cartoons have to brainwash our children, I'll have to put the idiot box in mothballs . . . MRS. J. McN., Akron.
Dear Mrs. McN: 1. You're right: it was simple; 2. I have never seen so many wholehearted people; 3. "77 Sunset Strip" is shown at 9 p. m. Does that make it adult viewing?
Well, 9 p.m. isn’t 8:30, and 77 Sunset Strip wasn’t children’s viewing, which is what his argument was about cartoons. The columnist, by the way, liked the Huck series and we’ve posted his column about it in this post.

However, I don’t buy his claim that liking cartoons is some kind of regression into childhood. Funny is funny, whether it’s live action or drawn. Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Jay Ward and Bill Scott all knew it.


  1. Sorry, Yowp, that's a Aesop and Son segment, not Fractured Fairy Tales, our intrepid columnist was recounting ("The Lion and the Aardvark"). Now who's being lazy? *JK, dude*

    1. Hi, TC. To be honest, I don't recall ever seeing it, though I must have at one time. And, yeah, I should have looked it up in Keith Scott's book if I can figure out where I put it.
      I prefer the Horton fairy tale format over Aesop.

  2. Wow this guy sounds like something of a poncey git. Your final couple of lines say it all really.

  3. As has become so common today, this would appear to be a writer with a specific agenda to push!

    Glad that folks of the time called him out on it! It wasn’t nearly as convenient to do then, unlike sending a snarky retort on “Insta-Tweet-Book-Gram-Face” from your basement living quarters!

    I mean… really! Couldn’t the writer be glad we had the wonderful product of Hanna-Barbera AND Jay Ward? …I was, and still am!

    Perhaps you’ve allowed us to witness today’s “Fanboy Attitude” at its genesis!

  4. Hans Christian Brando16 August 2019 at 18:53

    Anyone who doesn't know how to spell Boris Badenov can't be taken too seriously.