Friday 17 November 2023

A Few Hanna-Barbera Staff Pictures

There’s something pleasing about seeing pictures of the people who worked on the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Of course, publicity photos of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera have been around since their days at MGM. Cartoon histories/biographies come up with snapshots of some of the artists, writers and musical director Hoyt Curtin.

A few were published in an article on the studio in Hollywood Studio magazine’s issue of April 1967. I’m sure you’ve seen clearer copies of the photos of writers Tony Benedict and Warren Foster. But there are also pictures of two of the studio’s sound cutters which I don’t remember seeing before.

Greg Watson worked with Hanna and Barbera at MGM. He was the junior film editor under Jim Faris and moved over to H-B in 1957 (Warner Leighton was hired for the H-B sound department the same year). Watson, Hanna and Barbera brought some of the MGM cartoon sound effects with them; Fred MacAlpin was MGM’s original sound editor in 1937 and some of his effects can be heard in early H-B cartoons. Among Watson’s creations, according to a 1994 USA Today article, was the pitter-patter of Fred Flintstone’s feet while starting the Flintmobile. It was made by Watson pounding the palms of his hands on Hanna’s leather couch.

Also pictured is Don Douglas. Watson told Fred Seibert about him in 1995: “He most recently was working at Universal, and he created a thing by combining violin plucks, you know, pizzicato, and a couple of other sounds, and we called it ‘Pixie and Dixie Hop’.”

Watson has passed away. I don’t know about Douglas.

Though the article was written in 1967, the photos are several years old. You’ll notice the cinder block walls in the back of the sound cutting room. They’re from the second Hanna-Barbera studio in the windowless “bunker” studio at 3501 Cahuenga Blvd., down the street from where they constructed the studio familiar to fans.

I’m not going to re-post the article as it deals with mid ‘60s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but you can read it at on this site.

Note: This is post 1,400 on Yowp. I can’t say it’s the last as I have things from Earl Kress I’d like to post but I can’t find the time to write. Posts on my other blogs were written months ago.

Wednesday 11 October 2023


Jean Vander Pyl didn’t have a big name on television when she was cast to play Wilma Flintstone in 1960.

The others were a bit different. Bea Benaderet appeared on TV on Burns and Allen, continuing her Blanche Morton role from her radio days. Mel Blanc was known as Bugs Bunny and all kinds of Warner Bros. cartoon characters and periodically surfaced on camera on the Jack Benny show. Alan Reed had done odds and ends on the tube, but was not too many years removed from playing Falstaff Openshaw on Fred Allen’s radio show.

Vander Pyl had a number of supporting parts on network radio, starting with Jenipher Asbury on Scattergood Baines in 1937 while still attending UCLA. A 1948 article about her on the Ziv-transcribed My Favorite Story in 1948 mentions appearances on Amos ‘n’ Andy, The Aldrich Family, The Alan Young Show, The Dinah Shore Show, Dr. Christian, Sherlock Holmes, Cavalcade of America and with Fanny Brice. It skipped Lux Radio Theatre.

Her major regular role on radio was opposite Robert Young on Father Knows Best. Perhaps only Father knows why she was replaced by Jane Wyman when the show went to television.

Years after voicing Wilma Flintstone on 166 prime time episodes, and various spin-offs and specials (and in the 1966 feature film A Man Called Flintstone), she reflected back on her career in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. The feature story ran on September 29, 1989.

Meet Jean Vander Pyl, the Real Voice Behind Wilma Flintstone
Fred was never the Cary Grant type.
He was into bowling and burgers, beer and boxing.
His idea of dressing up meant tossing on his lodge hat—the one with real animal fur.
Still, in spite of his Neanderthal habits, Wilma Flintstone wouldn't have had him any other way.
"I loved the bum. Sure, Fred was a Yahoo and I got mad at him all the time. But we really loved each other. Our romance was one of the things that made us so popular.
"We were real."
That's the word from Jean Vander Pyl, the "real" voice of Wilma and hundreds of other radio and TV cartoon characters.
Vander Pyl, a San Clemente resident, has been an actress for more than 50 years. Her career has covered several generations of radio and TV entertainment. She's had long-running roles on radio shows, including the part of Margaret Anderson on "Father Knows Best," and made regular appearances on radio shows such as "Fibber McGee and Molly." More recently she has had bit parts on such TV programs as "Murder, She Wrote" and "Hardcastle & McCormick."
But none of those jobs, Vander Pyl says, have matched the impact she made as the long-suffering wife of TV's No. 1 caveman. "The Flintstones" was television's first prime-time cartoon, running from 1960 through '66 on ABC, according to Joe Barbera, who produced the show with William Hanna. The show has been in syndication ever since.
"I wasn't ever what you would really call a ‘star,’ but I did have Wilma," Vander Pyl says. "Millions of people grew up with us as a big part of their lives. And millions more probably will."
Vander Pyl, 70, still signs notes "Love, Wilma" and keeps a great stockpile of Flintstone memorabilia in her beach-front apartment. Next year will mark "The Flintstones'” 30th birthday, and the show's producers, William Hanna and Joe Barbera, are contemplating a Flintstone revival, Barbera said in a telephone interview from his Hollywood office.
He says they are weighing a number of options—including a possible live-action Flintstone movie—but Vander Pyl is pushing for a remake of the cartoon.
"I think we would be more popular than ever," she says. "Every time I talk to somebody about a new Flintstones series, I get a great response. I think the people who grew up with ‘The Flintstones' still want to see us.
"And, of course, if we do it as a cartoon, I'd get to be Wilma all over again."
Vander Pyl, who also provided the voices for Rosie [sic] the Robot and Mrs. Spacely on another Hanna/Barbera cartoon, "The Jetsons," notes that there is a precedent for reviving an animated show.
Though "The Jetsons" ran for only one season—in 1963 [sic]—Vander Pyl claims the show's popularity has grown in syndication. "The kids have taken up ‘The Jetsons' like some kind of cult We've become the 'Star Trek' of cartoons." In the mid-1980s, Hanna/Barbera Productions called in Vander Pyl and the rest of "The Jetsons'” cast to make 42 new episodes, enough for about two TV seasons. Last year, they made a new Jetson movie, which is scheduled to be released next summer.
Barbera, who created both cartoons and directed most of the early Flintstone episodes, says it's likely "The Flintstones" will be revived "in some animated form" in 1990.
If it is, Vander Pyl will have a job, Barbera says.
"A great [cartoon] voice is something that when you close your eyes and listen, it immediately makes you chuckle. Also, it's got to work for people of all ages, not just kids," he says. "Jean had that voice when we cast her, and she still has it."
Vander Pyl's work as Wilma was a key element in the success of "The Flintstones," he adds.
"I know I'm going to get killed for saying this, but Wilma had a great 'housewife whine' to her voice. She commanded enough authority to run the house but kept an equal amount of warmth."
"Wilma is a communicator and a lot of women relate to that at least I know I do," Vander Pyl says. "I think there's a lot of me in Wilma, and even though she's just a cartoon, I think my voice is one of the things that made her so human."
Still, Vander Pyl says she never trained to be a "voice."
When she was graduated from Hollywood High in 1937, she had just won the Best Actress award in the citywide Shakespeare Festival for her portrayal of Juliet. Her next stop was supposed to be Broadway.
"I wanted to be a star in the theater, not radio," she says.
But after an illness interrupted her plans, Vander Pyl enrolled at UCLA and started working in radio. She promptly discovered that school and radio work didn't mix.
"My sorority sisters told me I had to either go to work or go to class," Vander Pyl says. "So I said 'Bye, girls.’”
That began a steady, if unspectacular career in radio, doing freelance voice work for a number of stations in Hollywood. She says her strong points were that she could play everything "from the ingenue to the villainess without complaining or screwing up."
"Radio was a notoriously anonymous profession. It was considered a second-class art," she says. "Agents wouldn't even bother with us until the networks started packaging the shows and bringing more money into it. So I lived without the burdens of stardom."
As TV came alive and radio fizzled in the mid-1950s, Vander Pyl was one of many voice performers to find work in the new medium.
"When radio died, the prognosis was that we radio actors would be out of work because all we did was use our voices," she says.
"But that was wrong. Most of us came from a theater background, and making the switch wasn't that big a deal. Then a few of us got lucky and got into cartoons."
The idea of making "The Flintstones," a cartoon that Barbera says was based loosely on the TV comedy "The Honeymooners," came after marketing experts discovered the audience for cartoons in the late '50s was more than 50% adults, Vander Pyl says.
According to Barbera, the prime-time cartoon immediately touched a nerve.
"We must have done something right because Fred got marriage proposals every week," he says.
Vander Pyl is the last surviving member of the show's original cast. Former radio star Alan Reed was the original Fred, Bea Benaderet played Betty Rubble and Mel Blanc was the voice of Fred's sidekick, Barney Rubble, as well as Dino the Dinosaur.
"Mel was a great actor," Vander Pyl said of the recently deceased Blanc. "He was so good he made everybody sit up and notice that people who did voice work were talented."
"The Flintstones" brought Van der Pyl a modicum of fame, as well as other cartoon and TV roles. But it didn’t make her rich.
Though the show has been in syndication for more than 20 years, Vander Pyl doesn't earn a penny on the reruns.
"I think The Flintstones' and 'I Love Lucy' sort of shocked the Screen Actors Guild," Vander Pyl says. "Nobody knew that TV shows would go on forever, so our old contracts didn't call for much in the way of residuals. That's why I'm not wealthy."
But with payments from other shows still coming in, and a small pension from the Screen Actors Guild, Vander Pyl, a widow, says she is comfortable. A mother of three with two grandchildren, she lives in a small, tidy apartment about a half-mile north of the San Clemente Pier, and an Amtrak railroad line is the only thing standing between her front porch and the ocean.
The serenity of her home has helped keep her desire for acting work down to a minimum.
"Two years ago, my commercial agent told me I needed some new photographs. But I sit here and look at the ocean and I still need the [new] pictures," she says. "At my age, I'm interested in working, but not in making the drive up to Los Angeles five times a week.
"Of course, I'd make the drive if it meant getting to be Wilma again. That wouldn't be such a pain at all."

You’ll likely be surprised to learn that syndicated writer Eve Starr claimed in her June 11, 1960 column that Hanna and Barbera were unhappy with the first of the five episodes completed, but scrapping it would cost $65,000. Barbera admitted in 1960 that five soundtracks with other male leads (Bill Thompson and Hal Smith as Fred and Barney) were dumped and the parts re-cast. (Each half-hour show took about four hours to record, reported Starr).

The Stone Age cartoon wasn’t Vander Pyl’s first work at Hanna-Barbera. When The Quick Draw McGraw Show was developed in 1959, Joe Barbera insisted on new voice talent. Elliot Field was hired (he was Blabber Mouse in four cartoons). So were Peter Leeds and Hal Smith. And Vander Pyl was signed, too, debuting as the Tallulah Bankhead-sounding Mrs. J. Evil Scientist on the Snooper and Blabber cartoon The Big Diaper Caper (Daws Butler’s first time as Blab).

Besides voicing cartoons, Vander Pyl had something in common with her fellow Flintstones cast members. They smoked. A lot. Her son Michael told the Associated Press “All of them ended up dying of smoking-related diseases. That cute laugh that Betty and Wilma did with their mouths closed? They came up with that because when they normally laughed, because they were smokers, they coughed.”

He also revealed before she became ill, Vander Pyl wanted to do a TV commercial as Wilma warning kids not to start smoking.

Lung cancer claimed Jean Vander Pyl on April 10, 1999 at age 79.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Voices and a Margrock

It is quite possible Hanna-Barbera’s silent partner wasn’t so silent in 1963.

When H-B Enterprises started in 1957, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera weren’t the only ones behind the studio. The two had a connection with George Sidney dating to when he directed Anchor’s Aweigh (1945), which featured animated scenes with their Tom and Jerry. In 1957, Sidney was the head of the Directors Guild of America, and he agreed to invest in the new company and take an executive title. Not only that, he is credited with making the arrangements to connect Hanna and Barbera with Columbia Pictures’ TV subsidiary Screen Gems.

Sidney remained in the background while he continued his directing career, cashing out when Taft Broadcasting bought Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1967.

But, along the way, a funny thing happened.

Sidney became infatuated with a young dancer and actress named Ann-Margret. George Burns had added her to his act. Sidney saw her, shoved her into his movie production of Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and thanks to a re-write of the script, put a lot of the focus on her.

Now we get to connect some dots. Sidney’s Birdie was distributed by Columbia. Sidney’s H-B series The Flintstones was distributed by Screen Gems. What better way for Sidney to get more publicity for his movie star than by having her guest-star on The Flintstones?

Okay, I don’t know if that’s the way it went down. But it’s fun to consider.

On April 9, 1963, Daily Variety’s Army Archerd reported her signing for the fourth season debut episode as Pebbles’ babysitter. A release by ABC or Screen Gems hit newspapers by late May, advertising “She will sing two songs, one a lullaby, the other an upbeat pop number.”

I must admit I’ve never been infected with Ann-Margrock Fever. Some people like babysitters tugging at the heart with a sticky-sweet lullabye to a little girl, but it’s not the kind of plot I’m into.

The season debut (on most ABC stations) was September 19. Not coincidentally, in an ABC promotional tie-in, Fred appeared on the Jimmy Dean show an hour and a half later.

Here’s Variety’s review of Production P-103, published September 25:

With Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet, others;
Producers-Directors: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
Writers: R. Allen Saffian, Harvey Bullock
30 Mins., Thurs.; 7:30 p.m.
ABC-TV (film)
Now in its fourth season, "The Flintstones" has the unique distinction of being the lone survivor of several animated cartoon series aimed at an adult level. Among programs in this category that have failed to click are "The Jetsons," a situation comedy set in the 21st century, and "The Boing Boing Show," based on a newspaper cartoon character [Yowp note: It wasn’t. It was a character created by Dr. Seuss].
While the stone age era originally may have been a somewhat bizarre setting to place characters who mouth contemporary things, the satirical creation of the Hanna-Barbera cartoonery has not become almost as much a part of tv viewing as the news and weather report.
Calling 'em a household word wouldn't be too far off for a merchandising offshoot has put "Flintstone" glasses on lotsa kitchen shelves.
For the seasonal preem Thursday (19) writers R. Allen Saffian and Harvey Bullock came up with an amusing bit which caricatured singer Ann-Margret. She arrived in Bedrock (that's where the Flintstones live) to appear in a tv special dedicating Bedrock Bowl.
But before the "special" went on she wound up as a babysitter for the Flintstones' offspring and later managed to get Fred Flintstone and neighbor Barney Bubble [sic] on the show with her in an oldtime vaude strawhat & cane terp routine. It sounds rather silly, but nevertheless it all added up to the kind of material that Flintstone fans thrive upon.
Ann-Margret, who supplied her own off-screen voice, also warbled a couple tunes—“The Littlest Lamb” and "Ain't Gonna Be Your Love No More" which provided a lively musical fillip. Alan Reed again is the voice of noisy Fred Flintstone, Jean Vander Pyl continues as his wife while the bungling Barney Rubble is depicted by Mel Blanc, per usual.
"The Flintstones" are off to another solid season and don't have to drill to bedrock to find someone to pick up the tab. For among the bankrollers are everything from Skippy Peanut Butter to Welch's Grape Juice. Gilb.

Despite the mention of Benaderet, her name is not in the credits in the fourth season. Is Joe Barbera trying to tell her something?

An irony is the “old-time” dancing routine was done to a neutral Hoyt Curtin cue heard on the cartoon from the future—The Jetsons. Despite the presence of Carlo Vinci and Don Patterson, the animation isn’t terribly interesting. Margrock is infected much of the time with Hanna-Barbera-itis—her body is rigid while her head moves a bit. (I wonder if the Margrock dance moves were copied from Ann-Margret's swivel-hip routine on the 1962 Oscar telecast, which she told the Atlanta Constitution in 1963 was the turning point of her career).

And how’s this for dialogue?

Ann – Thank you so much, Mr....
Fred – Flintstone, miss. Fred Flintstone. And this is my partner, Barney Rubble.
Barney – Hi.
Laugh Track – familiar sounding guffaws.

Yeah, some real funny stuff there, Mr. L. Track. There are a few talking animals-as-appliances to amuse us. Actually, the funniest comment comes from the sponsor of the Margrock show (played by John Stephenson) who sniffs that his mother sang “The Littlest Lamb” to him when he was young. That was some accomplishment, since the song was written by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera with Joyce Goodwin and copyrighted on Sept. 9, 1963. The other song, “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Fool No More,” was written by Brice Coefield and Gary Pipkin and published by Screen Gems-Columbia Music, according to the cue sheet for the cartoon.

The popular press apparently had apparently decided Fred and Pebbly-Poo were passe. I’ve found no newspaper reviews of the episode, not even after a rebroadcast on June 16, 1964.

However—and this is the real purpose of this post—two months after the start of the 1963-64 season, the Tennesseean featured the Flintstones (sans Margrock) on the front of its entertainment magazine with the headline “Flintstones Begin Fourth Smashing Season.” Why a cover story article is using the future tense two months after something started, I don’t know. But this was published on November 17, 1963 and we hear what the stars felt about being on a hit show while it was still on the air.

Flintstones Enter Their 4th Year
WITH THE hayseed growing amongst the "diachronda" in Beverly Hills, the German army surrendering all over again for a new generation, and doctors flashing their scalpels and libidos into millions of living rooms, Hanna-Barbera's "Flintstones" will enter its fourth year on television.
Hanna Barbera's animated satire of life in the stone age (Thursdays, 6:30 p.m., Color. Ch. 8.) has proven a smash not only in America but throughout the world as well. It is currently playing in over 42 countries.
One of the little known aspects of the show is the marked effect it has had on its real life stars. Alan Reed, Bea Benadaret, Mel Blanc, and Jean Vander Pyl.
"I just completed a trip to various parts of the country," states Alan Reed, the burley voice of Fred Flintstone, "and because people recognized my voice and realized it was Fred, I really had some wonderfully warm experiences."
Close to Public
"In all the years I was doing radio, my voice was never as familiar to the public as it is now with the ‘Flintstones.’ It's a good feeling to know that you are that close to the public."
Bea Benedaret [sic], the voice of Betty Rubble, says, "There's no doubt that being the voice of Betty Rubble has brought added excitement to my life.
"All my friends, both professional and non-professional, feel very personally and unusually interested in the fact that I am doing the part.
"I am very proud to be doing the series," she said.
Fred Flintstone's ever-lovin' spouse, Wilma, portrayed by Jean Vander Pyl, has this to say:
"I think the most gratifying reaction I get to doing the voice of Wilma Flintstone is the delightful prestige that goes along with it. As opposed to doing most other shows, this is not only unique but virtually unheard of. It's a real joy. It doesn't matter about all the other characters I've done throughout the years.
Other Members
Rounding out the cast, the versatile Mel Blanc, who essays Barney Rubble on the show, stated:
"Being the voice of Barney Rubble in the Flintstones has been one of the most fun things I have ever done. Mostly because of the reaction I get from my fans and from the public in general. They love Barney and consequently they love me. That's nice.
"I have yet to talk to anyone who is not familiar with the series, and that's mighty unusual these days for television, now that people are getting a little more choosey.
"I had this exciting popularity driven home to me when I was in the hospital after my automobile accident.
[“]The mail I got was fantastic, and most of it came from those who were sorry to know that Barney Rubble had been injured.
"I found that Barney had a good many friends, and that's a gratifying reaction to an actor who never appears on the screen. Let's face it. The 'Flintstones' are practically a national institution."

Time certainly bore out Blanc’s claim. There have been all kinds of spin-offs, sequels and specials—and a live-action feature film—that kept the Modern Stone Age family in the public consciousness, though these days it’s more nostalgic or cereal related. As for Ann-Margret, she’s still with us, but I can’t help but think every obituary will refer to her appearance with Fred and Barney. Perhaps thanks to George Sidney.

Monday 11 September 2023

H-B Podcast

A Hanna-Barbera podcast?

Well, it had to happen some time. No, I have nothing to do with it; I really have neither the time nor inclination to put one together.

But you're in luck. Greg Erhbar does have the time, and he's begun one.

Greg has a wonderful breadth of knowledge about children's records, including the ones featuring the Hanna-Barbera characters and the Hanna-Barbera record label. He also has a real interest Bill and Joe's cartoon studio. He'll be discussing this with various guests. Greg takes great care to strive for accuracy.

You can check out the 'casts by clicking on this link.

This reminds me that some years ago, Rick Greene sent me scans of some Golden Record covers for H-B songs cut in New York City. Here are four of them:

For contractural reasons, Daws Butler and Don Messick could not appear on the Golden Records (and Earl Kress told me that Daws hated to fly to New York anyway), so people like radio actor Gil Mack were hired to impersonate the characters. Greg likes his work better than I do. Mack was very versatile on radio but as Mr. Jinks, he's cringing at best. You can find a whole bunch of those songs in this dusty old post.

Sunday 27 August 2023

Whip Up Some Cereal

The Quick Draw McGraw Show was bought and paid for by Kellogg’s, so the cereal maker made sure it had its imprint in the opening and closing animation.

As the Randy Horne Singers cheerfully bleated out “(That’s) Quick Draw McGraw,” the star drove a stagecoach through the plateaus of the American Southwest.

The camera cuts to a close-up of Quick Draw cracking his whip. Rather cleverly, the whip returns to spell the sponsor’s name with the letter-style familiar from cereal boxes.

But hold on thar! Quick Draw’s rope trick is only temporary. The letters fall and drop around his snout.

Quick Draw cracks the whip again. The force causes his head to swirl around, giving him multiple eyes and some funny expressions which viewers don’t see because of the pace of the animation.

The letters on the whip resume their correct form.

Some years later, Hanna-Barbera put out both the Huck and Quick Draw series into syndication, but without Kellogg’s participation; stations could sell the spot-break time that had been used to sell Sugar Pops or Corn Flakes. This also meant changes in the openings and closings to remove all references to Kellogg’s.

This annoyed me as a kid. “They’ve cut out Baba Looey on the stagecoach,” I grumbled loudly at the TV set.

I was also irritated about the changed opening to the Huck show. “Where’s the rooster?” I wanted to know. Years later, when Huck came out on DVD, the rooster footage returned and I satisfied myself it wasn’t something my childhood imagination had dreamed.

Animation director Robert Alvarez has these layout drawings in his collection. I presume they’re the work of Dick Bickenbach as his personal collection of H-B artwork ended up being auctioned on line. (Mr. Alvarez clears up the origin of these drawings in the comments. While Bick's artwork was auctioned, that is not the source).

I couldn’t tell you who animated these opening and closing sequences. I’m pretty sure the backgrounds are by Joe Montell, who worked for Tex Avery at MGM and later for John Sutherland Productions and Jay Ward in Mexico.

Now, thanks to the collection of the late Earl Kress, a little appropriate music. Here is the Kellogg’s “Good Morning” jingle on a xylophone. I’ve snipped out Hoyt Curtin’s slate and instructions. The xylophone player is named Chuck. There are three versions at different tempos. These were made at Western Recording on August 26, 1960. At the same session, by the way, Curtin recorded the vocals for the “Happy Anniversary” episode of The Flintstones.




And, because you want it, here is Hoyt Curtin scatting how he wants the Kellogg’s jingle to sound.


Ah, but that’s not all!

Also buried in Earl’s audio collection are the opening/closing Kellogg’s billboards for Top Cat. Weekly Variety reported on March 1, 1961 the series had been sold to the cereal company and Bristol-Myers (makers of Ban deodorant and Bufferin) on an alternate-weekly sponsorship basis.



This is the point in the post where I make my usual lament that Quick Draw isn’t on DVD (except for several episodes from the last season where music rights aren’t an issue) and that the Top Cat DVD has the same closing credits on all 30 episodes. (Kin Platt did not write the whole series, on-line "research" notwithstanding). We know from Variety’s review of Oct. 4, 1961 that Harvey S. Bullock wrote the debut “The $1,000,000 Derby” and Mike Maltese told interviewers he also supplied at least one story).

Kellogg’s deserves some credit for the success of the Hanna-Barbera studio. In 1958, H-B Enterprises was only turning out Ruff ‘n’ Reddy for NBC. Joe Barbera or Screen Gems’ John Mitchell or both managed to convince Leo Burnett, Kellogg’s agency, to replace one of its syndicated half-hour live-action strips with The Huckleberry Hound Show. Huck’s incredible success resulted in the birth of Quick Draw and the expansion of what became a cartoon empire.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Making The First Flintstones

“How long did it take to animate a Hanna-Barbera cartoon?”

That question has been put to the Yowp blog before. I could say “How should I know? I’m a cartoon dog,” but that answer is neither satisfactory nor altogether true.

Layout artist Bob Givens, who said he and Mike Maltese left Warner Bros. for H-B together in November 1958, recalled that Ken Muse was the fastest animator at the studio and could complete a 6 ½ minute cartoon (Huck, Yogi, etc.) in a week.

What about the half-hour shows, like The Flintstones or Jonny Quest? Well, we have a partial answer thanks to the late Earl Kress and his trusty filing cabinet.

Earl made copies of production records in the H-B file for the first dozen or so episodes of The Flintstones. These are invaluable as the episodes for the first two seasons had their closing animation removed in the 1960s and the same set of credits from one episode spliced onto the end of all of them. (As a kid, I was miffed. The voice credits said “Hal Smith – John Stephenson” and I knew they weren’t heard on some of the shows). When the DVDs were released, Earl oversaw new gang credits over the original animation (minus sponsor credits) so they were closer to how the shows originally aired.

More interesting, perhaps, are the dates (not always complete) about how long each show spent in layout and animation. These credits are not on DVD, either.

Unlike episodes in the fifth and sixth seasons, only one person animated each half hour. Unfortunately, the sheets don’t name any assistants; the studio had them, as a Variety story of Oct. 20, 1960 related how Bob Carr had been promoted from assistant to full animator.

You can click on each of these sheets to read them better. Regular readers here should know who the animators and other artists are who are recorded in these production logs, so I’ll skip commenting about them.

You’ll see it took about six weeks to animate each of the first two episodes put into production. Normally, the voice track is recorded first and then the animator goes to work. That isn’t the case here. It could very well be because the first few tracks were scrapped and the parts of Fred and Barney re-cast. Hal Smith related he was Barney opposite Bill Thompson’s Fred and Thompson (known better as the voice of Droopy at MGM) couldn’t maintain the growly voice that Barbera wanted for the character. (Barbera also wrote in his autobiography that Mel Blanc was not available when the show was first cast).

The animation checker for P-1 is Janet Gusdavison. A photo in the Mike Barrier collection shows she was at UPA in 1948. She can be found in the City Directory for Miami in 1941, so I presume she was working at the Fleischer studio then. She died in 1998.

The cameraman is Frank Paiker, who went back to the silent days in New York and the sound editor is Warner Leighton, who came to H-B from live action after time in the military. He was a Beverly Hills High School grad who died in 2005.

Emil Carle is the animation checker on P-2. He also animated a Pixie and Dixie cartoon. More about him in this post. Roy Wade was responsible for some of the camera work; he had been a cameraman at MGM and happened to be Bill Hanna’s wife’s brother. The sound editor is Joe Ruby, who should need no introduction, especially to fans of a cartoon Great Dane he co-created (make that “Rate Rane”).

P-2, “The Flintstone Flyer,” was the debut episode on Sept. 30, 1960. P-1, “The Swimming Pool,” was the third episode to air on Oct. 14, 1960.

By episodes three and four, the animators are working after the track is recorded.

The checker on P-4 is Annie Lee Holm, whose obit on IMDB says she started her cartoon career with Walt Disney. She died at age 61 in 1986.

Cameraman Vic Shank was a World War Two vet who worked for Austenal Labs in Chicago. In 1969, he was employed by a sports car dealership but the next year, he was the head of Animated Film Service, a film distribution company. He died in 1974. Sound editor Greg Watson had been with Hanna and Barbera at MGM under Jim Faris.

P-3, “The Prowler,” was the 14th episode to air on Dec. 30, 1960, while P-4, “The Baby Sitters,” was the 7th on November 11, 1960.

The voice cast list for P-5 is incomplete. Bill Thompson supplies his Wallace Wimple/Droopy voice as Mr. Slate. No, not the Slate who’s Fred’s boss. This one puts up his kids as collateral so he can buy a pop-up toaster (from the Buddy Buddy jewelry store run by Frank Nelson).

Remarkably, Don Patterson animated both P-4 and P-5 at the same time. It took about seven weeks.

The checker on P-5 in Pat Helmuth. A story in the Monrovia News-Post in 1980 indicates she studied at the Art Institute in Chicago before moving to California, and worked for the Disney studio. She opened her own shop in 1963 and made pottery as well as painted in acrylics. The sound editor on the cartoon is Don Douglas. He has the distinction of working on the last Warner Bros. cartoon, the Cool Cat epic Injun Trouble, which employed Bob Givens as its layout artist.

P-5, “The Engagement Ring,” was the ninth episode to air on Nov. 25, 1960 while Production P-6, “No Help Wanted,” was episode four, airing on Oct. 21, 1960.

P-8 should actually read “The Drive-In.” It aired Dec. 23, 1960, the 13th episode. P-7, “At the Races,” was the eighth episode, appearing on ABC stations on Nov. 18, 1960. It was written by Syd Zelinka, a radio writer for Groucho Marx and the team of Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore, who moved into television to work for Jackie Gleason (both on The Honeymooners and on his variety show) and Phil Silvers on Bilko. He died in 1981.

P-9 is the first cartoon where Jerry Mann provided voices for Hanna-Barbera. He was an impressionist and comedian who showed up on a number of Tom and Jerry cartoons in the 1940s. The cast list doesn’t indicate that Duke Mitchell sang as Fred Flintstone. And what is it with Hanna-Barbera characters and drums? Barney plays the drums in this cartoon and “The Swimming Pool.” Benny the Ball pounds a pail with drum sticks in Top Cat. Then George Jetson plays a drum kit in the Jet Screamer episode.

It took Ken Muse seven weeks to animate this episode. My guess is he was working on the Kellogg’s shows at the same time.

P-10 has Fred turned into the snooty Frederick, where Alan Reed digs his Falstaff Openshaw voice from the Fred Allen radio show out of retirement. Howard McNear uses his quirky Floyd the barber voice from The Andy Griffith Show on this cartoon as the doctor.

P-9, “Hot Lips Hannigan,” was the second episode to air on Oct. 7, 1960, while P-10, “The Split Personality,” was show number 5, airing on October 28th. I cannot explain why both were “approved” (or by whom) after the dates they aired.

Yes, Production 11 is the one where Dino talks like Phil Silvers, though you’ll notice the voice list calls the character “Snork.” I’ve always wondered if Jerry Mann auditioned for the Silvers-inspired lead in Top Cat months later (Arnold Stang was the third choice). This may have been the first Warren Foster-Mike Maltese team-up; they didn’t write together at Warners.

P-11, “The Snorkasaurus Hunter,” was the 18th episode to air on Jan. 27, 1961, while P-12, “Hollyrock, Here I Come,” appeared on Dec. 2, 1960, as the tenth episode.

Nancy Russell provides several voices in P-13. A wild guess is she is the Nancy Guild Russell in the 1950 census for Santa Monica whose occupation is “motion picture actress.” She appeared in a Life magazine article in 1945, was signed by 20th Century Fox, then married fellow contract player Charlie Russell in 1947 (they divorced 2 1/2 years later). She was 73 when she died of emphysema in 1999. You can read a little bit about Bob Hopkins of P-14 in this post, which also gives you a link to some things about Jerry Mann.

“The Girls’ Night Out,” was Production 13 but the fifteen show broadcast on Jan. 6, 1961. P-14, “The Monster From the Tar Pits,” aired on Nov. 4, 1960, as episode six.

John Stephenson’s long career at Hanna-Barbera began with Production 15. Eventually, when the series settled down to give Fred a regular boss, Stephenson was given the role. He had a fine career in front of the camera on sitcoms, as a narrator, as a commercial announcer on radio and TV, and even appeared on early television in Chicago while in university.

Norm Stainback shot some of the cels for this cartoon. He was born in Arkansas. In 1940, he was employed in Burbank by the company that makes Jergen’s Lotion. Ten years later he was a lab technician for a film developer in the Los Angeles area. He died in Dallas in 1984.

P-15, “The Golf Champion,” aired Dec. 9, 1960, the eleventh episode of the series. P-16, “The Sweepstakes Ticket,” was the twelfth show and aired the following week.

A new name pops up as the sound editor on P-17. Hank Gotzenberg later worked on the Grantray-Lawrence Spiderman cartoons and for Chuck Jones Productions. He served in Guam with the U.S. Marines and had worked at Lockheed Aircraft when he enlisted in 1941. The 1950 Census reports he was divorced, unemployed since at least 1948 and living with his parents. He died at Long Beach in 1978, age 58.

Earl didn’t have a sheet for P-18 “The Hot Piano,” animated by George Nicholas and written by Mike Maltese, known mainly for the cops singing “Happy Anniversary” (Earl does have a dub of the recording session for the song from Aug. 28, 1960). P-19 is the last one I received from his collection. Don Patterson must have been pretty busy at the time as it took him more than two months to finish animating it.

Arthur Phillips made his H-B writing debut on P-19, and his name appears on many more in the series. He had written for Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton on TV, and on films in the ‘40s. He died in 1990.

P-17, “The Hypnotist,” was the 20th episode to be broadcast on Feb. 10, 1961 while P-19, “The Big Bank Robbery,” was the 17th show, airing on Jan. 20, 1961.

Since you’ve read this far, let’s pass along some cues (from a cassette) from Earl. The titles listed below are what’s on the actual recording sheets. No date is listed, but the hand-writing is the same as cues recorded on June 10, 1960. The names are what Hoyt Curtin gave them.