Friday, 23 September 2022

What the Jetsons Means Today

The Jetsons turns 60 today, a 20th Century show set in the 21st Century that we now watch in the 21st Century.

In 1962, there was still general optimism for the future, that technology would make life simpler and more docile. Today, does anyone look forward to the future? Isn’t mass media filled with future scenes of dystopia, darkness and hopelessness, a feeling that we’re spiralling out of control because humanity has screwed up everything?

The future, at one time, was a huge sales pitch. Exhibitions and world fairs were full of “tomorrow,” generally consisting of improvements in 1950s gadgets that, naturally, you could buy from big American corporations. When corporate America lost its edge in the world market, there was suddenly a lot less talk about the future.

The Jetsons, for viewers today, is a trip back, not a trip forward. A trip to a time of positivity, that our lives would improve. Flying cars to save us time. Food-a-rack-a-cycles to save effort making meals. Three day work-weeks to reduce stress.

Any disasters on The Jetsons were not a prediction of an inevitably hopeless future ahead for humanity. They were gags. Like the Supersonic Dress-o-matic that takes George Jetson out of his pyjamas and into women’s clothes.

I generally like the series (I’m referring to the original 24 episodes, not the Orbitty Show of the ‘80s). The background art and other settings are great; especially buildings that look like the Space Needle. The writers went through science and technology magazines to get ideas of futuristic gadgets and some are things we use today. Hoyt Curtin and keyboardist Jack Cookerly came up some neat electronic music. Perhaps disappointing are some of tired old sitcom cliches the writers used (including “Honey, the boss is coming home for dinner” and the “suspicion of infidelity” bit), and the fairly lacklustre animation. There was no exaggeration; characters stood and talked and talked, with animators employing their individual style of head and mouth movement.

Here are backgrounds from the first episode that aired. They’re by Art Lozzi. The colour is excellent; some ABC affiliates actually aired the series in colour.



This throwaway background gag reminds of something you might see on The Simpsons 25 years later.



The gag above is from one of my favourite episodes— the debut of Uniblab. Computers took up whole rooms in the early ‘60s, so Uniblab has a huge head. For those who don’t know, the “uni” comes from the Univac, a Remington Rand division which made computers for corporations and the military that operated on punch cards or thick tape. The “blab” part came from the spying computer blabbing information and gossip to boss Spacely. I didn’t need to know about corporate suck-ups at age six; I knew George Jetson was getting screwed around and waited for the plot to play itself out with Univac being the victim of karma.

People like quoting from cartoons, and Barry Blitzer’s script gives viewers a chance. “Spacely’s a stupe,” exclaims Uniblab, which George repeats for the computer’s microphone, as the two play Five Card Satellite.



“Jupiter Gin! Planet Poker!” slurs the brain after getting drunk of Henry’s spiked oil.



I haven’t tried adding up all his scenes, but Carlo Vinci seems to have been responsible for much of the animation in this episode. He had unique mouth and leg shapes and angles. By this time, he was teamed with Disney veteran Hugh Fraser on the half-hour series.



One scene in the cartoon bothers me, and it shows you the limits of limited animation. Uniblab shoots hot coffee over the “board of directors” (presumably from Spacely Sprockets’ parent corporation). They just stand there. There’s no reaction to the liquid, let alone it being hot liquid. It’s completely unrealistic. The studio couldn’t even spend the time making a four-drawing yelling cycle.



Because it is The Jetsons, here is an obligatory shot of a flying car. I hope the exhaust doesn’t kill the ozone layer. Maybe it’s water vapour.



There really isn’t more I can say about the series that what’s been posted on the blog. Each cartoon has been reviewed. We wrote a bunch of posts when the series turned 50. Find one with music HERE. There's a post where Joe Barbera talks about the Space Needle and another about futuristic inventions.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Promoting George and Jane

The Jetsons started life, according to Bill Hanna at a lunch at the Brown Derby, as a stand-by series just in case TV viewers didn’t warm to Arnold Stang playing a cat.

The lunch was with UPI’s Vernon Scott, likely in November 1961, who reported in early December that “Waiting in the wings should Top Cat become a fallen feline are The Jetsons, The Gruesomes and a medley show starring Cops and Roberts, Bill and Coo Coo, and Casey Jones. Hanna said ‘The Jetsons are the opposite of the Flintstones. They live several centuries in the future and suffer the same nutty family problems as Fred and Wilma Flintstone’.”

At the start, it wasn’t clear when the show was going to air. The Oakland Tribune of February 19, 1962 had it pencilled in on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. opposite Rawhide (CBS) and International Showtime (NBC). Daily Variety, on March 19, revealed: “Rest of the Sunday schedule is fairly well locked in. The Hanna-Barbera cartoon ‘The Jetsons,’ described as the ‘flip side’ of ‘The Flintstones’ and updated to the year 2,000, leads off at 7 p.m.” (A syndicated blurb in the San Antonio Express of April 1 said the series was set “a thousand years hence”). Broadcasting magazine on April 23 put it where it ended up—on Sundays at 7:30 opposite Dennis the Menace (CBS) and Walt Disney (ABC). It estimated production costs at $60,000 an episode, $10,000 less than Dennis.

Sponsors seem to have been found pretty quickly after that. Variety announced on May 2 the show “has been sold to Colgate-Palmolive and Whitehall Laboratories, both through Ted Bates [an ad agency], and Minnesota Mining and Mfg., through McManus, John and Adams [another agency].”

Now that a time slot had been set, it was time to start publicising the show. There was actually something specific to publicise; The Hollywood Reporter’s “TV Writing Deals” column of April 12, 1962 said Larry Markes had been hired to write two episodes. He received the story credit for the debut show with Rosey the robot and the sixth one where George leads a pack of cub scouts on the moon.

Newspapers would get news releases from networks, sponsors, producers, that could be printed verbatim as stories. Here’s one from May. Evidently the publicity department didn’t know George’s employer was “Spacely Sprockets.” I like the way Top Cat is played down, having failed in prime time. You’ll note nothing about the cast as Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll were still George and Jane when this release was written
.

‘Jetsons’ Offer Animated Look Into Comedy Future Next Fall
"The Jetsons," a new, half-hour situation comedy series featuring an amiable family of animated characters who live the good life about a century or so in the future, will make its debut on the ABC Television Network next fall as a prime time evening feature.
The program will be telecast Sundays, 7:30 - 8 p.m.
Hanna-Barbera Productions, producers of ABC-TV’s top-rate “The Flintstones,” and regarded as one of the most original production organizations in television, created the new all-family series.
"The Jetsons,” which has been in development for one year, is a light-hearted bit of futuristic fun. It deals with George and Jane Jetson, their cute, teenaged daughter Judy, her kid brother Elroy and the family dog, Astro. In their wonderously wacky world, the surroundings and gadgets have all changed — naturally for the better. But the problems we know and cope with are, to be sure, still around.
George works for Space Rockets Inc. [sic] The Jetsons live in the Skypads Apartments, which rise and fall on huge hydraulic lifts to stay clear of the weather. Jane Jetson dials the family's meals on a food console, solves the servant problem with robot maids. Son Elroy is packed off to school in a convenient pneumatic tube and Judy has her space-age singing idol, one Jet Screamer.
For 20 years at M-G-M, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera produced the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons which won 7 Academy Awards. In 1957, they set up their own studios to produce animated cartoons for television with Screen Gems. Their "Huckleberry Hound," now seen on over 150 stations through the nation, was the first half-hour series in TV to consist entirely of original cartoons.
In the fall of 1960, the H-B team embarked on the first animated series on TV network prime time, "The Flintstones," which returns in the fall with all the woes and fun of the Stone Age for its third season on ABC-TV. Last season, "Top Cat" was a prime-time animated series from Hanna-Barbera Productions.


Another release states: “It is understood that ABC has held open a network slot for ‘The Jetsons’ for a number of months, since the idea for the series was simple pencil sketch on a single sheet of paper. Sponsor interest remained strong during all the months in which Hanna-Barbera were busy putting together a presentation to show them.”

Next came the beloved network custom—The Junket, where entertainment reporters from all over the U.S. were given an all-expenses-paid trip to meet the stars of the coming fall season. Since it’s a little hard to meet cartoon characters, Hanna-Barbera brought out master salesman Joe Barbera and p.r. whiz Arnie Carr to promote, promote and promote The Jetsons. One reporter was from the Birmingham News.


Jetson cartoon this fall will make Glenn look stone age
BY TURNER JORDAN

News radio-TV editor
HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 21—From the first visits to the studios it appears TV is after the family in its entirety as viewers . . . The shows will be aimed at catching the adult audience and the kids as well . . . And if you think you've seen the fantastic, there’s more and more to come . . . We learned this while at the Harna-Barbera studios.
Their new project for this fall is the Jetsons, an animated cartoon in color . . . Col. Glenn’s exploits will look like old stuff as compared to the Jetsons . . . and Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna believe in it enough to think it can buck Walt Disney’s wonderful World of Color . . . Both will be on in Birmingham at the same time after Sept. 21 . . . There are George and Jane Jetson, a son Elroy and the dog, Astro.
When Arnie Carr, publicist, and Joe Barbera told about some of the exploits of this new some of the exploits of this new ABC cartoon series, TV editors were in stitches . . . TV reporters are here from Boston, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, San Mateo. Calif., and Nashville, Tenn., as well as Birmingham . . . But I thought while we were all laughing of how absurd space flights were several years ago until Alan Shephard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn came along.
IN FACT the only fear Joe Barbera has about the Jetsons is that it may be contemporary before the series runs its course . . . The Jetsons have skypool apartments you can run up and down, to let you out of the smog, as Carr and Barbera pointed out . . . And they do have smog out here as well as we do in Birmingham . . . Penny Singleton, remembered most for her role as Blondie’s wife, is thee wife in this one and her voice should be a riot.
There’s even a record coming out on the Jetsons, and Howard Morris, one of Steve Allen’s old funny men, (or was it Sid Caesar’s?) is the voice of Screamie Jet . . . It’s strictly for the bee-bops . . . And the dance for that era will be the solar swivel, so look out twist . . . The things the Jetsons have are “out of this world” and that is literally and figuratively speaking . . . One of them is a seeing eye vacuum cleaner which has two electronic eyes that seek out dirt and dust and even when the Jetsons aren't looking it sweeps the dust under the rug. And there's a shower that works like a car wash . . . You step on a slide-walk that moves you along, washes you off and puts on the powder and finishes the job at the end of the line. . . . There are many more innovations for the Jetsons, and it will be interesting to watch this show . . . Pretesting has brought out that it’s going to be one of the shows of the fall.
HANNA-BARBERA should be all right, if they can do better than Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw . . . Of course, I’ve said from time to time cartoons don’t appeal to me except when the grandchildren are around, but I’ll be on the lookout for the Jetsons.
George Jetson has a three-hour, three-day week (that’s bad huh?) and he still complains about a hard day at the office . . . And life is so wonderful in this Jetson age Grandfather doesn’t retire until he’s 110 and still there’s a lot of life left in the old boy . . . There are already by-products of the Jetsons, such as soap, towers, dolls, books and toys . . . And that’s a big item . . . In the year which ended June 1 gross sales from by-products of cartoon characters grossed $39 millions wholesale and Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems had a take from that of 5 per cent.
Hanna-Barbera are learning about TV cartoons . . . They have moved from a small studio to a bigger one and now are getting away from animal cartoons . : . The Jetsons are the first series I learned about on this trip hut there's more in store. . . . Hope you stick with us on the trip and let us tell you more about this TV town. . . .
Had lunch . . . sitting at a nearby table was Morris [sic] Gosfield, the Doberman of Sgt. Bilko. and the voice of Top Cat [sic] . . . one of which Hanna-Barbera are not too proud . . . It flopped.


Mike Carroll’s column in the Hollywood Reporter on March 21, 1962 had an unusual little item about the show. He said Nanette Fabray had been signed to play a Martian maiden. If she had, the idea was scrapped. The series wasn’t like The Flintstones, which had already succumbed to the age-old ratings gimmick of celebrity guest stars. Additional voices were supplied by cartoon actors and commercial voice over people like Herschel Bernardi and Shep Menken.

By the way, there was a radio show with George O’Hanlon as George who had a wife named Jane and an overbearing boss who kept threatening to fire him. It was Me and Janie, a replacement show for Alan Young on NBC in 1949. You can hear an episode below.


Saturday, 17 September 2022

He's Ready to Animate Ruff and Reddy

This year (as of July 7th) marks the 65th birthday of H-B Enterprises. The studio only had one main accomplishment in 1957—it convinced Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems division to put up the money for a TV cartoon series, which the studio then convinced NBC to broadcast on Saturday mornings.

Weekend programming back then was not a huge priority for networks, so NBC had no qualms about tossing Ruff and Reddy onto the schedule after the start of the season. It debuted in December. The second and third seasons began in subsequent Falls.

The first two 13-part adventures to open the series’ third season on Saturday morning, October 17, 19591 2 were copyrighted in September the previous year (Series ‘L’, Dizzy Deputies; Series ‘M’, Spooky Meeting at Spooky Rock). Presumably, they had already been finished and were sitting in cans at 1416 La Brea Avenue awaiting shipment to NBC.

The final two 13-parters were copyrighted on September 15, 1959 (Series ‘N’, Sky High Guys; Series ‘O’, Misguided Missile). By that time, Hanna-Barbera had hired additional artists to handle the load of the new Quick Draw McGraw Show and the theatrical Loopy De Loop cartoons. Also, writer Charlie Shows left in November 1958 to work for Larry Harmon, who was ready to make a series of Bozo the Clown cartoons for syndication.

The first of the 1959-made episodes was “Sky High Guys” (debuting February 12, 19603) began with our heroes accidentally taking off in a balloon at a county fair and ending up on a desert island trying to stop two crooks (Captain Greedy and Salt Water Daffy) from stealing a treasure chest from Skipper Kipper and his parrot Squawky Talky.

13 cartoons is a little much for one animator to handle, and I’ve been able to identify two of them. Carlo Vinci starts off the series. You can spot him again in “Tiff on a Skiff.” Captain Greedy has a bar of upper teeth. Reddy doesn’t zip out of the scene in a diving exit; he uses a curved back exit that Carlo drew for other characters like Huckleberry Hound and Fred Flintstone. And he also has a particular angle he draws a straight leg with the foot up almost at a 90-degree angle. You can see this in other cartoons.



Two episodes later, in “Squawky No Talky,” there’s a different animator. Add up the signs. The bit lip on the letter “f” and individual upper teeth. He animated Fred Flintstone the same way.



The almost double isosceles triangle closed eyes.



The up-and-down dip walk with no legs. He animated Ranger Smith this way in “Bewitched Bear.” I’ve slowed down the walk in the animated .gif below. And it’s missing a number of frames because of ghosting on the internet dub of the cartoon, but you get the idea. It’s animated on ones.



The animation is by Don Patterson, who joined the Hanna-Barbera staff from Walter Lantz in April 1959. Patterson was unemployed and looking for work according to the U.S. Census taken April 29, 1950. He arrived at Lantz later in the year, animated for a bit, was made a director in 1952 and stopped directing in 1954. He was moved back into full-time animating. His Woody Woodpecker animation includes some great exaggerated takes. I get the impression that as the ‘50s progressed, studios decided wildness was passé and cartoons got tamer and tamer.

Here’s a Patterson take from “Squawky No Talky.” It’s not all that outrageous, even compared with his work at Lantz, but it’s not what you’d expect in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. You think George Jetson was ever animated this way?



It appears H-B Enterprises loved airbrushed action. Here’s some (with multiples) in a later scene.



For Patterson, as well as some of the other earliest Hanna-Barbera artists, dialogue wasn’t just a mouth or lower part of a jaw moving with everything else rigid. In the scene below, Patterson uses three head positions. The middle drawing is used whenever certain vowels are spoken. The other two positions have the mouth open and close. Bill Hanna’s timing is such that the head moves on ones, two and threes; the in-betweens aren’t the same number, which would make the animation look mechanical.



Because Charlie Shows was gone from Hanna-Barbera in November 1958, I don’t suspect he worked on this episode. If I had to guess, I think Mike Maltese may have had a hand in this. At one point (in “Tail of a Sail in a Whale”), Daffy says “I’m doin’ the diggin’, and don’t forget it,” reminiscent of Quick Draw McGraw’s “thinnin’” line to Baba Looey. And pardon my sloppy research here as I don’t recall if it’s on this adventure, but there are a couple of times where the narrator talks to the characters, which just seems like a Maltese thing.

I’m not sure about all 13 parts of this storyline, but it looks like Bob Gentle provided at least some of the backgrounds. Today’s trivia: though they graduated 3 ½ years apart, Patterson and Gentle attended Hollywood High School at the same time for a brief period (photos below are from the same page of the 1927 annual).



A final note about “Squawky No Talky,” I’d love to do a breakdown of the music, but I don’t recognise any of the music in it. It’s obviously from the same two libraries that were used in Hanna-Barbera’s other cartoons at the time, but these particular cues were exclusive to Ruff and Reddy. I don’t have a complete collection of the Capitol Hi-Q “D” series and I’m pretty sure some music that sounds like Spencer Moore’s in this cartoon comes from one of the missing discs. The second last cue, when Daffy is threatening Squawky, sounds like a Loose-Seely dramatic melody while final cue, when Daffy is being attacked by the parrot, is another of Jack Shaindlin’s sports marches. There is some familiar Moore, Loose-Seely and Phil Green music in other parts of the adventure. The last season of Ruff and Reddy seems to use a lot more music than the first one, which were content with two or three different pieces (saving time and money in editing).

Patterson was still working at Hanna-Barbera decades later, credited as an animation director on The Flintstone Kids (1988), a good 55 years after assistant animating at the Charles Mintz studio (a look at the end credits reveals a wealth of veterans, including Patterson’s younger brother Ray, and Art Davis who went back to the ‘20s at Fleischers).

Donald William Patterson was born in Chicago on December 26, 1909. After Mintz, he stopped at Disney and MGM before Walter Lantz gave him a job. He died in Santa Barbera, California on December 12, 1998. (He is pictured to the right with Lantz in front of the storyboard for Operation Sawdust).



1 Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, Oct. 17, 1959, pg. 18. See also Feb. 6, 1960, pg. 6
2 KMJ, Fresno, broadcast the show at 5:15 p.m. on Fridays. KERO, Bakersfield, also an NBC station, aired it on Saturdays at 9 a.m.
3 El Paso Times, Feb. 13, 1960, pg. 8. See also Feb. 6, 1960, pg. 6

Saturday, 3 September 2022

Oh, Dear. Oh, My. Another Birthday

The Jetsons wasn’t the only effort from the Hanna-Barbera studio to make its first appearance 60 years ago.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decided that, instead of having a half-hour show that a sponsor would sell to stations in different cities, they (or, rather, Screen Gems) would market their own short cartoons that a station could air as it pleased. The three different series could be dropped in individually in a hosted kids show, or they could be strung together into a show of whatever length it desired.

After fussing around with different concepts, the studio produced five-minute cartoons starring Lippy the Lion, Touché Turtle and Wally Gator.

This has raised the question—when did the cartoons debut?

It’s pretty much impossible giving an answer when it comes to syndicated cartoons that could be dumped into an omnibus cartoon show with anything else the station rented, or were just another part of a kid show with a live-action host. Someone on-line has raised the date of September 3rd—60 years ago today—perhaps based on a post on this Yowp-tastic blog. If you’re willing to accept the claims of an ad for KCOP in the Los Angeles Times on September 3, 1962, then today is their birthday.

(We can make a possible exception for Lippy’s sidekick Hardy Har Har, who appeared in an embryonic form in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon Laughing Guess that first aired February 29, 1960 when he sadly mutters “Oh dear, oh my.”)

Touché, Wally and Lippy got a preview in the Los Angeles Citizen-News entertainment page on August 28, 1962. It would appear the three made their first appearance on the air the day before (Aug. 27) then settled into regular daily programming the following week. The critic not only thought the characters would be enjoyable for children, she also outlined the plots of the preview cartoons, and mention’s H-B’s other 1962 series
.

TV Time
Cartoon Stir Young Minds
By ARLENE GARBER
TV Editor

There may be more in cartoons for children then most of us think.
Because those animated antics are not performed by real people, but the creations of paper and ink, they could easily stir the young minds much more than a western adventure show or a “Dennis the Menace.”
It seems that an animated figure running across the screen leaves a lot to the imagination, especially to the willing imagination of children.
Hanna - Barbara Studios’ latest creations, “Touché Turtle,” “Wally Gator” and “Lippy the Lion” give credence to this idea. All three were previewed Monday morning on Channel 13, before they start their regular run next week at 6:30 p.m.
First thing that will tickle the young viewers’ curiosity is probably the names of these new cartoon characters. Just saying Touché Turtle and Lippy the Lion out loud must be fun for kids.
Lippy the Lion turned out to be just goofy enough to have a feline friend called Hardy Har Har. And the two of them seemed exactly the type of characters who would run from a loud pirate captain without any thought of fighting back.
Because they came across the screen as believable personalities you might never meet in this world, I’m sure the youngsters will not think any of their escapades are impossible.
A TURTLE
Touché Turtle had a rather throaty voice to go with his hard-shelled soft-hearted personality. His pal Dum Dum was an over-grown puppy type who was agreeable to anything.
These two got involved with a rather tame gorilla in what appeared to be a loose spoof on the movie of “Mighty Joe Young.” And they did it without filling the screen with terrifying violence.
l imagine that Touché Turtle could become everyone's favorite as he romps through his adventures as the unheroic underdog.
Wally Gator turned out to be an alligator with more size than sense or courage. His troubles began after an old English hunter mistook him for a dragon on his front lawn.
This segment had some of the best comedy lines of the three cartoons. Children must have enjoyed it when Wally Gator asked, “What are you, an alligator hater?” or “Don’t you recognize a confirmed coward when you see one?” All three series have successfully relied upon continuous action based on story lines with which the viewer can associate himself.
Hanna-Barbera will be giving youngsters lots of laughs, plus something for the imagination to feed upon with their Channel 13 schedule this fall. And adults won’t be turning away from them either.
FOR GROWN-UPS
If grown-ups find these three-cartoon series a shade juvenile for their tastes, Hanna-Barbera have come up with another creation, “The Jetsons,” fashioned for the more sophisticated crowd. It will be seen Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on ABC-TV.
“The Jetsons’’ takes an animated family and projects them into the next century.
There’s the father, George, who drives the skyways to work in his atomic-powered bubble. And Jane, his wife, who has to remind son Elroy not to lose his rubbers during a school field trip to Europe.
Daughter Judy does the solar swivel on an anti-gravity dance floor and meets her friends at orbiting Space-burgers.
Although it looks like many of the lesser cartoon series which began hopefully a year ago will no longer be on the screen, these creative efforts by Hanna-Barbera may very well be among those which satisfy cartoon lovers in the season coming up.


Lippy, Wally and Touché were bi-coastal 60 years ago today. They also made their first appearance on WGAN-TV in Portland, Maine, and on the Sheriff Colepepper Show on WNDU-TV in South Bend, Indiana (one local paper alternated Lippy’s and Wally’s names for the half-hour show). In Salem, Oregon, KPTV aired a half-hour Lippy show starting September 3rd; one paper listed Lippy in the first 15 minutes and “Wally and Touché” the rest of the half hour.

Over the course of the next few weeks, a number of papers ran ads for the coming appearance of one of the three stars, but my favourite ads are in the September 29th edition of the Lansing State Journal. Kids were invited to colour in the cartoon characters on newsprint, and connect the dots on Touché. Yeah, it looks like someone at the paper traced a publicity drawing of Quick Draw McGraw, but they’re still pretty cool.


Saturday, 27 August 2022

An Interview With Hoyt Curtin

Times were changing in the late 1950s when it came to background music on television.

Some producers had been relying on leased stock recordings from production music companies. Hiring a composer and orchestra were too expensive and the head of the American Federation of Music, James Caesar Petrillo, was too meddlesome in refusing to lower the potential cost. But by 1959, Petrillo was out because of a scandal, and producers evidently decided the price was right to have someone come in and score themes, bridges, openings, endings and so on. The days of Ozzie and Harriet having music someone heard on Dennis the Menace were about to end.

Hanna-Barbera was one of those producers. Other than opening theme songs, the studio, from Day One in 1957, relied on sound cutters picking music from the Capitol Hi-Q library and Langlois Filmusic (distributed by Capitol) to fill the backgrounds of cartoons.

That day came to an end. In 1959, Columbia Pictures ended its theatrical release agreement with UPA and, in its place, put Loopy De Loop cartoons on the big screen produced by Hanna-Barbera. Why not? It owned part of the cartoon studio.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decided Loopy should have something other than library music enhancing its theatrical shorts. The studio had hired Hoyt Curtin to write themes and arrange variations of them for bumpers. Why not hire him to create a library of cues for exclusive use of (and owned by) Hanna-Barbera?

That’s what it did.

Then H-B got into the half-hour prime-time television business, so Curtin was brought in to write music for The Flintstones then for everything else the studio was producing, music that is familiar to almost everyone of a certain age (the lyrics for some themes may not be, thanks to the production involving the Randy Horne Singers).

At the time, this was all “kid stuff.” No one gave it any serious consideration, especially because it had to do with television. But the kids grew up, they still liked Curtin’s music and some had the smarts to seek out Mr. Curtin for interviews.

This one was reprinted in the September 1992 edition of Film Score Monthly. Curtin’s H-B history is a bit off in places, and he was asked about cartoons outside the scope of this blog, but it’s interesting nonetheless, especially his references to Carl Stalling and Daws Butler. And he’s quite correct about The Jetsons second theme. When it became The Orbitty Show, you can hear the synth where Curtin had used horns in the original.

We’ve skipped the filmography mentioned below. Basically it gives him credit for every single H-B cartoon. According to it, Ted Nichols never existed; Mr. Nichols has his fans, too. And it mentions all the original Hanna-Barbera shows which, outside of theme songs, owe more to Jack Shaindlin, Spencer Moore and Phil Green when it comes to scores.

(The photos comes from a 1972 article in another magazine we have not reprinted on the blog).


HOYT CURTIN
FROM BEDROCK TO HOLLYWOOD


Hoyt Curtin has scored some of the most pervasive material in American culture, being the countless number of cartoons put out by Hanna-Barbera over the last thirty years. He began in the Hollywood of yesteryear, before lone musicians like Fred Mollin could capably score an entire television show or movie with only electronics. All studios had orchestras on call, and it was up to the composers to work with an "in-the-trenches " mentality of a different sort to score the assembly-line material for live players. It created a hectic do-it-yourself scoring schedule which many composers, like Henry Mancini and Jerry Goldsmith, claim to be instrumental in their training.

The following interview was conducted by James Vail for his radio program Cinemusic, which airs in Hammond, Louisiana on KLSU 90.9 FM on Tuesday nights at 9PM, re-run on Sunday at 4PM. The interview is reprinted here with Mr. Vail's permission, as is the mammoth Hoyt Curtin filmography which follows.

Vail: Could you describe your musical background and the events that led to your breaking into the film/television medium?


Curtin: I studied piano all my life, of course, and went to USC’s school of music and studied composition I was very fortunate to study with some very wonderful people because I was supposed to go to Juiliard after the war, on the G.I. Bill, and the man who enters you asked me why I was going to Juiliard [sic] when USC had people like Ernst Toch and the biggies at the time. Why go to Juiliard? They were just very crowded and they didn’t have anyone of that stature. So I called up my friend who let me enroll late at USC and drove back there at about a hundred miles an hour and went to lake my masters degree. It was great! We had some marvelous teachers. I studied with Miklós Rózsa and I just kept writing all I could, trying to get a job and that's not easy.

Vail: I see your first score was for The Mesa of Lost Women in 1952.

Curtin: (laughs) It’s the world's worst film, I think. It was really bad when I wrote it but now it’s worse. As I remember, it was about ladies on an alien planet who turned into tarantulas. I believe that was it. I didn’t have any budget so I had to do it with two pianos. A friend of mine, Ray Rash—one of the real great jazz guys—played the other piano. We really had fun doing that. I started out in what was called the industrial film business, because TV had just started to come in and companies like GE, Ford, and all the rest, they didn't spend their money in television, they spent it in industrial films. I finally got a job, by accident I went up and pounded on the door, literally, and the guy that owned the studio. Ray Wolf, had just fired his musical guy in a great huff. They were friends; that’s the worst kind. They had a big blow-up just the day before and here I am standing with this can of film in my hands that we made at USC. USC has a very good film department. They not only make the films but they have the kids score them. They’re still doing that. In fact I speak at USC, on occasion, and talk to the class that’s doing this. It’s marvelous! How else could you get to score films when nobody's going to ask you to do it for money? So, that part was marvelous. But then the company stopped making them and so I was unemployed, again. A friend of mine suggested I go to a studio called UPA which made the original Mr. Magoo shorts and they hired me to do some shorts. My teacher at the time was working there too. He wrote the one for Gerald McBoing Boing. Do you remember that one?

Vail: Yes I do. It's a fantastic short—exceptional score by Gail Kubrick. [sic]

Curtin: They tried a whole lot of new things. It was a little tiny company stuck behind a building out near Warner Brothers. They cranked out some of the real great stuff. In fact, the first one I did got an Academy Award and the second one got nominated. When Magoo Flew was the one that got the Academy Award. It was wide-screen animation; that shows you how ahead of things UPA was. I started working in TV commercials. That was where I really got going and I worked for a large company that was the “hot" company. That’s what happens these days. The ad agencies get on a company and do all of these ads at this company and if they’re not doing them there, then they’re not being done. I was the composer for Cascade Pictures and I’d write about ten a week. In so doing, I was called out to MGM to do a Schlitz beer commercial and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were doing the commercial. We got along and we did a nice job. I didn't think anymore about that and finally the phone rang and it was Bill. He said, "Could you write a tune for that?" I called him back in about five minutes and sang it to him. He said. "Could you record that?" This was the way we started; it was over the phone—go do it! They didn’t have time to do any fooling around — no meetings, forget it. And they were on their way. This was Ruff and Ready [sic], their first one and we did the same thing for The Flintstones. That was supposed to be The Flagstones but somebody didn’t like the word ‘Flagstones’ for some reason and so they made it Flintstones. Yogi Bear and all of them were done over the phone, too.

Vail: The theme songs?

Curtin: Yes. And then, of course, there had to be the cues written. In animation, you don’t have lead-ins and lead outs. You let the action handle it. You score the whole thing. So, each episode had to have 22 minutes of music—that’s a lot. It was an awfully busy time. I was doing all of their writing until about last year.

Vail: At what rate were these TV cartoons being turned out back in the ‘60s?

Curtin: I'm not sure how many in 1960, but I know in 1970 we had nine, count them, new shows, new series. And those all had to be scored immediately. They all aired on the same day in September when the network season started. It was really something to have nine shows going. At times it would take ten of us to write that stuff I would write all the themes and then I had to find guys that could write for animation. It's not like live-action. That was a big chore. We put out an awful lot of music but very little of it was recorded at the studio. The studio had a very nice recording studio there, but it isn't big enough for the band. Originally, we used great big jazz bands.

Vail: What caliber of players did you have in the band?

Curtin: I always had the hottest — Pete Condoli, Conte Condoli. Franke Capp — the drummer, Nick Fortula, Barney Kessel. I always had the names, not because of their names, but because they played great. But see, these are the earlier guys. The later guys were hot, but you wouldn’t know their names as well.

Vail: They were studio musicians?

Curtin: That’s right, but they were the best of them. The whole studio scene comes down to a very few guys because the particular kind of music I was writing was very difficult sight reading; it had to swing. We could only get one shot at it; we usually got a run-through. Then we would record it and go on to the next cue.

Vail: The rehearsals/recordings were pretty much a one-shot deal?

Curtin: That’s right. We recorded usually three times a week, three hours each time. They had a big stack of music in front of them and we just went through it. Everybody was geared-up to work hard, get ten minutes off an hour and then come back and hit it again.

I remember now. I have main titles from 142 different series. You know, Speed Buggy, The Jetsons, of course, and things like Wheelies and the Chopper Bunch [sic], These are the Days, and The Smurfs. It was a big pool of music — just hundreds of hours of it. The studio was recently sold to a group and they brought in their own people and it’s going to be sold again, I believe. I think Universal is going to buy it.

Vail: Was The Flintstones your first Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon scoring assignment?

Curtin: I think it probably was the first big one, but they did Ruff and Ready, Quick Draw McGraw, Hokey Woolf [sic], Wally Gator, Huckleberry Hound — those things were first. Then The Flintstones came. It just took off. It started out in prime time — Friday night. It would go off the air, then be revived, and come back with new episodes. One of the things, I think, that helped the music was that the musicians liked to jam on that piece. I know a lot of recordings have been made of it by jazz groups. It’s fun. I love to hear it.

Vail: How long was The Flintstones’ original run?

Curtin: First they made two, maybe three years of new things. Then it went off for a while and later a large food company picked it up and did a series as the sponsor. Then it would go off and it would come back on again. I don’t think they’ve made any new material for some time, but I notice they are going to do a live-action picture with John Goodman as Fred.

Vail: I seem to recall hearing about that some time ago. Isn’t [Steven] Speilberg [sic] producing it?

Curtin: Yes. It’s going to be a real dynamite thing.

Vail: Are there any hopes of your writing the score?

Curtin: Would that I were. They haven’t asked me, but I'm ready. I’d love to do it.

Vail: Like most kids, I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. One of my all time favorites was one of yours, Hong Kong Phooey.

Curtin: It was funny because I remember that one very well. We had decided to write a song and to have Scatman Crothers sing it. I forget if Hanna wrote the lyrics to that or if I did. It didn’t make any difference because we went in as a duo. That was Scatman Crothers’ favorite song, too. We had a big Hollywood Christmas parade here and he was the Grand Marshall and when this guy came up to him to interview him, you know, off the street, he started singing Hong Kong Phooey. He was an awfully good musician and a nice guy. He played great — good guitar player. He sang great and was at his best when he accompanied himself. He was really a good scat singer He was in clubs and doing this and that, but when he did this Hong Kong Phooey thing, from then on do you notice he was a contender as far as motion picture acting is concerned?

Vail: Come to think of it, yes. I can recall seeing him more frequently in the public eye.

Curtin: Well, this all started with Hong Kong Phooey. That was his thing. He said, "I want to sing my theme song” and he would sing that thing.

Vail: Another one of my favorites has once again come back — The Jetsons.

Curtin: The Jetsons was another funny one. Every one of them was funny because you just don’t know what you’re doing and you'd wait to see if it worked out or not. It was a nice little show, just an idea, and I wrote a piece for the main title of it—just cute little cars going around in the air and everything. Everybody looked at the picture after it was done and they said, “Hey, this thing works!” So they had me write a chart to go with the chart that was on it. I think if you listen carefully, you can hear the two bands in there. I put strings and every thing on it with all those runs. When were were recording that, we were listening in the headsets to the original track so we’d stay with it. That’s how that was done. That was a two-part main title. You see, they’d see the picture done and somebody would say. "Hey, this is better that we thought it was going to be. Let’s load the music a little bit.”

Vail: Did you use any electronic instruments for The Jetsons?

Curtin: If you heard the record, we did two versions—a main title, the original around 1960, and then later they made a record. That one. I’m sure, had synthesizers. But I can't make that darn synthesizer swing. I have to have the band. You've got to have the swinging guys.

Vail: I've even played it with a college band and it's a fun chart to play.

Curtin: Awful simple, isn't it? Four notes and forget it. You know, it brings back the memory of writing the damn thing. I didn’t have any idea, I hadn't seen anything. I knew what was going to be on the film. We had one animation director who liked to get a tune, a track, and the track should have action and then when would design the pictures to go with it. And I somehow think I liked that because the music flows. You wrote a piece of music and then he'd put the animation on it. The kind that were tough was when you'd get the animated pictures and you had to match it with the music. There were always compromises to make to hit this and that. You can’t swing, it works but not as well. I like to write a tune, a piece, orchestrate it, make it move and let somebody put the pictures to it

Vail: When you found a certain cue that worked extremely well, be it action, suspense, or whatever, was it ever used again for other cartoons?

Curtin: Yes. The cutters get onto cues that work and those are their special cues. They go into their special bin and when something happens that they need it, they use it. But the musicians union requires that we score each and every thing. Then, if they substituted an old cue, nobody cared.

Vail: The consistency seems to be that most TV cartoons run for one, maybe two seasons and then they're off. Are there any cartoons in the past few years that have "stuck out" from the rest?

Curtin: Well, The Smurfs has done beautifully. It came over from Europe and it was Americanized. Scooby-Doo has done beautifully. The Flintstone Kids is still on. There aren't a lot of them as you say. One of the nicest ones I did went off after one season. A lot of times that happens. Wildfire it was called. The tune was written by Jimmy Webb, an awfully good writer. I didn't write the song, I scored it for him. It was a beautiful thing but it didn’t catch on. And that happened a lot

Vail: You wrote a lovely song for The Last of the Curlews.

Curtin: It was about these two curlews, they were just a pair, and they were flying over a field and this doggoned farmer picks up a shotgun and blows the lady away. It brings a tear to your eyes. Then old Clyde has to go wandering off but there aren’t any other curlews left. He's the last of them. That’s what the song is about

Vail: You also wrote an interesting primitive percussion theme for Korg 70,000 BC.

Curtin: It was live-action and it was about cavemen finding fire and all that good stuff I just thought, why not do it with just percussion and a conch shell? I had to find a guy to play the conch shell, of course. I deliberately played it out of tune. There’s a chord at the end and it’s just a little off, by design.

Vail: Could you describe the main difference in scoring for cartoons and live-action?

Curtin: I would say that you're a lot broader in animation. You haven't got facial movements, body movements, emotions, etc. The guy is thinking, the guy is getting ready to blow the town up or whatever—you haven't got that in animation. In live-action, whole areas might carry without music. Music might be an intrusion. Whereas, in animation, you pretty much have to go wall-to-wall. After you write animation, writing live-action is such a pushover. It's like you could write it with both hands at the same time... and I have, when behind.

Vail: Which do you prefer?

Curtin: Oh, I like the animation when the animation is good and funny like it used to be with this guy, Daws Butler. He was their [Hanna Barbera’s] big voice guy — Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw. I’d get to listen to his tracks and it was just easy to write the music.

Vail: In the past thirty years, has the TV cartoon evolved for the better or the worse or is it still basically the same?

Curtin: You know. I'm deeply rooted in Bugs Bunny and Carl Stalling and that kind of music. That kind of animation is just too expensive, so that's why we have the look we have now. Some of it is very inventive and some of it isn’t. But, if you ask me which would I prefer to watch, it would be the older stuff, naturally. Think of the things they put into it. The studio was required to have a studio orchestra — on call all the time. They had to be paid for ten hours a week whether they played or not so why not use the orchestra to play. That’s why you had all of those great scores.


Below is an industrial film scored by Curtin in 1959. It looks like American Motors shelled out some pretty good cash to make this, considering it was produced at MGM and has a good size cast for this kind of film. The director, incidentally, is Dave Monahan, who wrote cartoons in the 1930s at Warner Bros.

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Flintstones Daily Comics, Dec. 1961, Pt. 1

There’s a site which has posted the Monday-through-Saturday newspaper comic strips of The Flintstones. I wasn’t going to post my copies because of that, but since they’re taking up space in my computer, I’ll put them up for December 1961 and leave it at that.

There are puns, there’s sexism (Wilma’s is a shrewish wife who won’t shut up or make up her mind), and there’s no Baby Puss. Those of you who get worked up about “Bibles” can get grumbly that Wilma’s mother doesn’t look anything like she does on the TV show. We note she hadn’t appeared on television yet.

I’m a little baffled about the comic referred to Fred’s foot as a wheel. I thought they were brakes, and the stone rollers at either end of his car were wheels.

You can enlarge any comic by clicking on it.


Friday, Dec. 1, 1961.


Dec. 2, 1961


Monday, Dec. 4, 1961


Dec. 5, 1961


Dec. 6, 1961


Dec. 7, 1961


Dec. 8, 1961


Dec. 9, 1961


Monday, Dec. 11, 1961


Dec. 12, 1961


Dec. 13, 1961


Dec. 14, 1961


Dec. 15, 1961