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Stuff about early Hanna-Barbera cartoons

older | 1 | .... | 37 | 38 | (Page 39)

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  • 12/15/18--07:02: Jean Vander Pyl Looks Back
  • For the first two years of its life, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio relied almost entirely on Daws Butler and Don Messick to provide voices for all its characters. The exceptions were rare. By 1959 the studio was looking to expand its talent roster, and also to hire a woman to handle the female roles instead of using Messick in falsetto.

    That’s when Jean Vander Pyl was hired.

    Vander Pyl came from radio. She wasn’t in the top echelon of female supporting players like Bea Benaderet or Shirley Mitchell, but she had a steady enough career. Because of that, she didn’t get a lot of attention. That changed years later, when Hanna-Barbera cartoons became nostalgic and Vander Pyl was still around to voice her old characters.

    From what I’ve heard she was a friendly, down-to-earth and level-headed person, and a good friend, so it’s nice to see her getting some publicity.

    This story appeared in the Asbury Park Press of May 29, 1994. Other than misremembering which character was her first—Hanna Barbera had a bunch who were inspired by the Addams Family, so that’s understandable—she gives an interesting take on her career, including her most famous role.

    Vander Pyl died on April 10, 1999 at the age of 79.


    WILMA SPEAKS
    By MARK VOGER

    PRESS STAFF WRITER
    "I was never very bold about telling actors off or telling directors what I wanted," says a familiar voice over the phone from California. "You just didn't do that in those days. But there were two times in my life that I did."
    Jean Vander Pyl is reminiscing about her audition for "The Flintstones" in 1960. Present were Bea Benaderet, an old friend from her radio days, and animator Joseph Barbara, who would decide which of these two women should play Wilma Flintstone and which should play Betty Rubble.

    Continues Vander Pyl: "When Bea and I read, it was the funniest thing. We read back and forth, this way and that way. And finally Joe said, 'OK — who wants to be Wilma and who wants to be Betty?'"
    Vander Pyl lets out a laugh. "It was so informal in those days, so much more relaxed. Today, they would never do such a thing!
    "So I said, 'Oh, I want to be Wilma!' I felt a real closeness to that character. Bea said, 'That's fine with me.' So that's actually the way it was cast."
    The only other time in her long career that Vander Pyl "mouthed off" would come three years later.
    When we heard there was going to be a baby on the show, she says, "we were excited. The minute I heard that, I thought, 'Oh, I want to do that baby!' Sure enough, the first time it was in the script — the birth of Pebbles — (Barbera) said, 'Now, who's going to do the baby here?'
    "The minute those words were out of his mouth, I said, 'I want to do the baby! She's Wilma's baby and she should sound like Wilma!'"
    If you're only going to speak up for yourself twice in your career, Vander Pyl apparently picked the two right moments.
    As the creator of the voices of the voices of Wilma (which she still performs to this day) and baby Pebbles, Vander Pyl has been heard for 34 years in 86 countries. She is the only surviving member from the original cast of the 1960-66 animated series The Flintstones, on which is based the feature starring John Goodman which opened Friday.
    Before doing voice characterizations for television, Vander Pyl worked in radio for 20 years, "in the early, early days, when radio was like television now. "For radio people," the actress says, "if you couldn't do more than one character in a show, you didn't work. So, cartoons were a natural for radio people."
    Vander Pyl first worked for William Hanna and Barbera — the animators who created "The Flintstones"— in the late '50s, just when the need for original cartoons produced specifically for the medium of television was becoming more and more apparent.
    "It was the big change, and television demanded it," Vander Pyl recalls.
    "At that time, they were using the old 'Betty Boops,' the old 'Popeyes'— all the stuff that had already been done. Then (Hanna and Barbera) came up with this new method of producing cartoons quickly.
    "They were credited with being the first people to be able to make cartoons fast enough for television, because television ate them up so hard."
    Vander Pyl's first role for Hanna-Barbera was as Mrs. Creeply in a "Snooper and Blabbermouth" episode.
    "She looked very much like the mother in "The Addams Family,'" Vander Pyl recalls. " So I thought, 'What can I do?' I fiddled with it and came up with — in my own way of thinking, as actors do — half-Katharine Hepburn and half-Talullah Bankhead, if you can imagine."
    By 1960, buoyed by the success of such cartoons as "Ruff and Ready," [sic] "Yogi Bear" and "Huckleberry Hound," Hanna-Barbera set about producing what would become the first-ever prime time animated series in television history. As such, the series had to appeal to adults as well as children — which is why a certain live-action sitcom was used as a prototype.
    "They showed us the cartoon, and then Mr. Barbera explained to us what it was like," Vander Pyl recalls. "He said, 'It's sort of like "The Honeymooners."' And that was the tipoff to what type of voices they wanted. So, all four of us had a pattern that we were lead into.
    "I did sort of an impression of Audrey Meadows, who played the wife on 'The Honeymooners,' which was that New York, nasal kind of thing."
    Vander Pyl slips into a perfect Meadows impression. "'Oh, Ralph! How many times do I have to tell you!' All up in the nose.
    "So when we all first started, we all ended up doing almost-impressions of those four. But then, after we got the parts and the show was on, I remember Joe saying to me, 'Jean, that's a little too nasal. Let's cut down on the nasal.' But I would slip into it, because we had done several shows that way. So it became half me and half the original Wilma."
    Vander Pyl says that the chemistry among the first Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty was no accident.
    "The interesting thing is that Bea Benaderet, Mel Blanc (Barney), Alan Reed (Fred) and myself were all from radio," Vander Pyl says. "I think the success of the show had a great deal to do with the chemistry of that whole cast. All four of us had worked together on and off for 20 years. So when we were put together in the show, it was not like new people. We were old friends.
    "Bea was one of my best friends before we ever even started. I used to take my little girl over to visit her. We used to sit in the sun around her pool back in the early days. I'm talking about the '40s, when our kids were little. These same children are now 52.
    "I loved Alan. Al was one of my favorite people. He was kind of like Fred. He was a very warm, big, gentle man when you saw him, but bombastic, too. Like Fred."
    Following the cancellation of "The Flintstones" in 1966, Vander Pyl continued to do voices for Hanna-Barbera: Rosie on "The Jetsons" ("she's so much fun to do"), Winnie Witch, Ogee on "Magilla Gorilla," Ma Bear on "The Hillbilly Bears" and Blutessa (Bluto's sister) on "Popeye." But Wilma never strayed too far from Vander Pyl's repertoire. She continues to speak for Wilma through all of the various "Flintstones" spinoffs, such as "Pebbles and Bamm- Bamm" (1971-76), "The Flintstones Kids" (1986-89), "The New Fred and Barney Show" (1989) and many others. And Vander Pyl plays Mrs. Feldspar, Fred's third-grade teacher, in Amblin Entertainment's new "Flintstones" feature.
    But Vander Pyl found the two most recent animated "Flintstones" spinoffs — last year's TV movies "I Yabba Dabba Doo!" and "Hollyrock-a-Bye-Baby" (in which Pebbles gets married and has a baby, respectively) — particularly satisfying.
    "It was the most gratifying thing to do those two movies," Vander Pyl says. "It has been wonderful for me, and I'll tell you why. When I was young, I wanted to be a famous, dramatic actress, right? Katharine Cornell. Helen Hayes, the first lady of the theater. My only disappointment — though I'd worked through the years and had a wonderful career — was that I was anonymous. I wasn't recognized on the street.
    "But that was OK, because I really ended up having the best of both worlds. If I wanted to appear famous, I could just tell people I was Wilma Flintstone. But I didn't have to suffer through some of the hard part that stars, really, have to go through today, where they can't go to a restaurant without being besieged. "When I meet people today of all ages, they say 'I grew up with you.' I've had so many people come up to me and say that.
    "And the most charming and touching thing is that so many of the baby boomers were latch-key kids, and I've had people say, 'You were my mommy and daddy. I came home every afternoon after school and watched you.'
    "I've had people thank me for all the years of pleasure and fun. I've never thought of myself as having that kind of effect. It's so gratifying to me now. I think, 'Gee whiz — maybe I did do something after all.'
    "So it has been very gratifying, but mostly it made me feel good that maybe we made a portion of the children of this last century feel good about something and enjoy something. "And laugh."

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    It’s remarkable! Infants in the Stone Age know future U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew! And they know there are such things as Spiro Agnew watches (my fuzzy memory seems to recall there was such a thing before Agnew’s political demise).

    At least, such is the case in the Stone Age of the Flintstones.

    Here’s what Gene Hazelton and his crew put together in the Sunday comics on this month in 1970. Pops appears on December 6th, Barney and Dino on the 13th, and Fred takes the Christmas comic of December 20th off. He returns on December 27th with a new-fangled remote control (at least our TV sets in the ‘60s never had one).

    Click on each comic to enlarge it. The colour comic comes from the collection of Richard Holliss.


    December 6, 1970


    December 13, 1970


    December 20, 1970


    December 27, 1970

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  • 12/22/18--07:12: Santa and the Stone Age
  • If you’re going to buy the fact that people in the Stone Age celebrate Christmas, you might as well jump in and buy the fact that the Sphinx, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa date from the Stone Age, too. Because we see all that in “Christmas Flintstone.”

    The show aired as a regular episode of The Flintstones on Christmas Day 1964 (the first time the show aired on a Friday night after swapping spots with Jonny Quest). It was repeated on Christmas Eve 1965, so we can only presume ABC and Screen Gems intended this to be an annual thing. Of course, 1965-66 was the final network season for the show.

    It’s evident that Hanna-Barbera pumped more money into this episode than usual. There are a couple of original songs by John McCarthy. There are a few imaginative overhead layouts, something Hanna-Barbera rarely engaged in. And despite the anachronisms, a few plot holes, inconsistencies in the names of Santa’s elves, and the non-presence of Bea Benaderet, the episode has its charms. Alan Reed gives a fine performance (his off-key singing suits Fred’s character, to be honest), the background artwork is top-notch and the songs are kind of cute. And Barney’s mantra of “good will to your fellow man” is appropriate but not strident.

    Warren Foster’s plot involves Fred Flintstone, fill-in department store Santa, filling in for the real Santa Claus who can’t make his Christmas Eve delivery because of a bad cold. Fred jumps in Santa’s sleigh and pours toys out of a huge bag that are swallowed up by chimneys. No need to animate Fred going in and out of houses; some cycle animation of falling parcels and toys does the trick. The cartoon makes good use of silhouettes as Fred drops presents upon various places in the world. The presents include Pebbles dolls. Ideal Toys needs their product placement!



    The Flintstones was starting to run on fumes by season five, but this episode is a pleasant half-hour that is worth watching at Yuletide time.

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  • 12/25/18--06:00: How Hoyt Curtin Made Music
  • Hoyt Curtin may have made as big an impact on Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the early 1960s as anyone else at the studio.

    Curtin began writing libraries of underscore music for various series in 1960 but had composed theme songs for the company since its first show, Ruff and Reddy, debuted in 1957. All the great music for Jonny Quest, Top Cat, The Jetsons and The Flintstones was all the product of Curtin and his arranger. Later, things changed as the workload got bigger, and Curtin contracted others to compose for him.

    Film Score Monthly profiled Curtin’s work at Hanna-Barbera in its February 2001 issue; he had been dead for only two months. A portion of what’s a very long article is transcribed below.

    It seems to be a Christmas tradition here on the Yowp blog to include music in our posts of the 25th of December. I’ve posted a number of Curtin cues that aren’t available elsewhere. I don’t have many good ones left but you’ll find them sprinkled in between paragraphs. I haven’t tried to embed a music player; simply click on the title and it should come up in your computer’s player.


    Cue V-311

    Working with Hoyt Curtin at Hanna-Barbera
    By Jeff Bond

    When Hoyt Curtin died in December of last year, the world lost a cultural icon. But the composer of such instantly recognizable TV show themes as Jonny Quest, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Magilla Gorilla was largely unknown to audiences. The fact that he was often listed as a music supervisor on the various Hanna-Barbera cartoon series he worked on — making it unclear whether or not he had actually composed music on the shows — didn't help matters. Curtin did, in fact, Curtin did, in fact, compose most of the themes and a great deal of the music for Hanna-Barbera cartoons at the end of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Over the years he also pulled into his orbit other composers, musical directors, producers and a veteran group of musicians to assist him in supplying music for Hanna-Barbera's massive factory of animation.
    Curtin's training for the world of cartoon theme songs couldn't have been more effective: He came from the world of commercial jingles, eventually becoming perhaps the most successful West Coast producer of catchy advertising songs.

    Cue J-203

    Trained to boil down the appeal of a product in 30 seconds, Curtin applied his knack for simple yet indelible melodies to his first cartoon for for Hanna-Barbera, 1957's Ruff and Reddy. He went on to provide themes and music for cartoons like The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958), Top Cat (1961), Wally Gator (1962), Magilla Gorilla (1964), Peter Potamus (1964), Yogi Bear (1964), Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles (1966), The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968), Wacky Races (1968), The Cattanooga Cats (1969), Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969) and Hong Kong Phooey (1974).
    After a period of semi-retirement, Curtin did music supervision and themes for The Smurfs (1981) and other Hanna-Barbera series. During that period, Curtin worked with such composers as Ron Jones (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Family Guy), John Debney (Spy Kids, Heartbreakers), Mark Wolfram (Piercing the Celluloid Veil: An Orchestral Odyssey), Steve Taylor (Tiny Toon Adventures), John Massari (Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Ray Bradbury Theatre) and Tom Worrall (The Tom and Jerry Kids Show, The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch) among others. For some of these composers, working with Hoyt Curtin was their first major gig. And while they generally did not receive screen credit for their work, the job turned out to be an invaluable training ground for future composing [employment].
    Some of the composers knew Curtin's reputation and pursued him for the job, while others just knew they might be able to get a job writing cartoon music. "I was familiar with the shows, but I didn't make the connection between Hoyt and the shows," Ron Jones admits. "I was new to the business, but when you watch all that you don't really pick up all the names. You pick up all the bigger names and Hoyt's kind of goes right by you."

    Cue J-209A

    A Tireless Creator
    John Debney was one who was familiar with Curtin's work. "Hoyt was like a Mike Post," Debney says, relating Curtin to the man who has written countless familiar TV themes and acted as a music supervisor and brand name for their background scores. "You know who he is and you know what he's done — and I worked for Mike Post, too.
    Hoyt had been around a long long time by the early 1980s, and by that time he had really retired. I certainly knew who he was." Ron Jones became one of the mainstays for Curtin in the early 1980s. "I worked on more than a hundred different series with Hoyt," Jones says. "I worked on The Smurfs, Scooby Doo, The Trolkins, Richie Rich, Pound Puppies— the list goes on and on. My resume is so ridiculous with all the listings that people have told me to actually delete stuff — it's like two single-spaced pages of Hanna-Barbera credit. And they're all network shows. The first season I worked for Hoyt, I got a break and went home and was watching TV on a Saturday morning, and I had shows on ABC, CBS and NBC simultaneously."

    Cue V-323

    Jones was attending a professional arranging school and doing copying to make ends meet when he saw the opportunity to get into animation. "The copyist copied all of Hanna-Barbera's stuff, and I looked at it and thought, I could do that," Jones says. "So I asked if I could deliver it. I cornered Hoyt Curtin and he gave me a shot." At the time Curtin was working with producer Paul DeKorte at Group Four Studios. "At Group Four he'd be on a break and I asked if I could hang out and I'd be asking him little questions. And over a period of sitting there watching I told him I'd been taking film scoring and orchestration and that I understood all this," Jones recalls. "I didn't know that everything was scored with storyboards and cassette-slugged dialogue. He told me to come back next Tuesday, and I came back next Tuesday... and he said to come back next Thursday, and I came back next Thursday... and he told me to come back next Tuesday. The third time, he said, 'Let me go out to my office.' And his office was his Lincoln Continental in the parking lot. He handed me some storyboards and a tape and said, 'Here you go.'"

    Cue J-263

    Scoring by Numbers
    Jones quickly discovered that scoring Hanna-Barbera animation involved more work on the composer's part than he'd anticipated. "I got home, and the storyboards from Hanna-Barbera are very cryptic," he notes. "You don't really understand what's going on. I was used to film footage but this was ridiculous. The storyboard would say six feet of somebody swishing by, and then it would go to the next panel and it would say the dialogue, and there was no continuous accounting for that time. So I realized I had to take a stopwatch and time that and add up the footage and make this huge map. It took me about four days to figure out how to do that."
    Mark Wolfram found the key to entering the world of Hanna-Barbera literally at his feet. "I sent Paul DeKorte a letter at one point and on my demonstration tape I put an example of a commercial I had done for a sneaker called Snorks, which just happened to be a Hanna-Barbera character at the time," Wolfram remembers. "It sat on a shelf for a year and eventually Hoyt heard it and called me up. Hoyt said we should meet, and we had a nice breakfast at Smokey Joe's on Riverside and Coldwater. He filled me in on his career about his early days as one of the biggest jingle guys on the West Coast, and he asked if I wanted to go to work for Hanna-Barbera. At the time Curtin and his crew were working on an updated version of Jonny Quest, the classic adventure series that had aired in prime time in the '60s.
    "The first thing I did was three or four episodes of Jonny Quest," Wolfram says. "It was kind of adventure music. There were more modern effects around the edges than in the '60s version, some synth drums just for some touches. Obviously at that point we were using EVI or EWI [a woodwind synthesizer] rather than three or four woodwind players, but that was really the only concession to contemporary."
    Wolfram was faced with the same working approach Jones and the other composers met. "We basically had to be our own music editors and make our own cue sheets and from that you try and hit as best you could," he explains. "But you didn't want to get too specific because everything would be used for the library, so you tried to serve the episode as best you could but still keep it broad enough to have multiple uses."

    Cue J-267

    Cartoons Are a Funny Business
    John Debney likewise fell into the working routine quickly, sharing scoring duties on individual cartoon episodes with the other composers. "There could be anywhere from three to four of us," he says. "Someone would get four minutes and I'd get three or Ron Jones would get three, and once you had done it for him a number of times and knew what his vocabulary was and knew the kind of endings you had to do, it was very specific the way Hanna-Barbera did it. They were librarying this music and they would use it on other shows, so every few bars you'd have to put a hole in the music because they could take that and cut to another piece of music. It was very formulaic, but it was really fascinating and I learned a lot by doing it."
    The sheer volume of music that needed to be produced made a major impact on most of the composers. "I would try to do a minimum of 20 pages a day and during the summer I'd end up working six or seven days a week, so it would be 130 pages of finished score every week," Jones recalls. "Mostly you'd get an act to work on, the whole act or sometimes a whole show. Or sometimes it would just be generic themes, like 'Can you write a bunch of chases? Can you write a bunch of dialogue cues?' because once they had a few shows scored they'd track it. That came in handy when I did Duck Tales because when I got there, they said, 'How can you score nine shows and track a hundred of them?' and I said, 'Watch.' They'd say, 'Why did you do that Arabian cue?' and 'Why did you do that other and I'd say, 'Look, trust me, you're gonna need that.' All that training really allowed me to envision what needed to be done."
    Jones developed his own system for keeping track of exactly what show he was working on at any given time. "You keep a notebook or a manila folder and put the themes in there," he recalls. "They'd be right there next to the piano, and I'd say 'What show are we doing?' and then any shows I'd make up themes [for] I'd put them there too so there'd be a folder with dialogue themes, one with Hoyt's themes, one with my themes and so on."
    Though Curtin was only writing bits and pieces and providing show themes by the 1980s, Debney notes that Curtin's work during his first decade or so with Hanna-Barbera was far more extensive and involved a long-standing collaboration William Hanna, a founding partner of the animation factory with Joseph Barbera.

    Cue J-278

    "I was told by Paul DeKorte that Hoyt used to write most of the music himself," Debney explains. "I got to know Bill Hanna really well too, and Bill would really work with Hoyt on those themes and write lyrics for them even though you might never hear the lyrics. Bill was a musician and an old-school guy and he knew how to read animation charts. He's have storyboarded things for a two minute main title or theme and he'd actually time it out.
    Debney notes the Curtin's background in jazz was invaluable both to his jingle work and his fashioning of some of television's snappiest theme songs. "Hoyt was a jazzer," Debney says. "He was a keyboard player for one of the big bands and he was in the service. That's why his music sounds the way it does, he always loved those jazz chords, and they're fabulous."

    Cue V-325

    Even in the '80s when Curtin wasn't writing most of the music, he conducted all the scoring sessions with a group of veteran players with whom he had long-standing relationships. "Hoyt conducted everything and Paul DeKorte was in the booth," Jones says. "Before MIDI stuff came in, he and Paul DeKorte budgeted things so they could have a pretty good-sized band, but we did The Smurfs with six violins and a little band, and it was all take-downs of Berlioz and Rachmaninoff and Beethoven. The Smurfs gig was about how many classical themes can you use, because the Smurfs were these little characters they did in Europe and they tracked it all with classical music." Paul DeKorte was also a talented singer who sang on and contracted vocals for all of Curtin's sessions. "As far as musicians, I recall Gene Cipriano on woodwinds, Frank Capp and Steve Schaeffer on drums, Jerry Hey, Chuck Findley, Rick Baptist and Charlie King on trumpets. Lloyd Ulleate on trombone, Tommy Johnson on tuba and bass trombone, Vince DeRosa on horn, Clark Gassman on keyboards and Chet Record on percussion," Jones says. "The concert master on violin was Sid Sharp."

    Cue JW-11

    The Boys in the Band
    Jones says he learned a great deal of his craft just by talking to Curtin's team members. "We had the best players on earth and that's how I'd learn," the composer says. "I'd write for them, and then I'd talk to Tommy Johnson and say, 'What did you think of my tuba part?' And he'd say he liked this part and maybe I could do this other part better. Or I'd go sit with Chet Record who was the percussionist, who had to play like a million instruments, and I'd say, 'How do you get from the timpani over to the xylophone in time?' and he'd say 'I draw these arrows.' It was like a master orchestration class. I'd work with Lalo Schifrin on these French orchestration books, and then I'd go practice what I learned in terms of transparency and amplitude and intensity with all that writing each week. It was really a school unlike anything I've ever seen. The players were all great sight readers. They all loved the work. He made it fun and musically interesting."
    According to the composers, Curtain made the job interesting in other ways as well. "Hoyt used to do certain things," Debney laughs. "I'd finish my allotment for the week, maybe 10 minutes of music, and he'd always call me on a Sunday night as I was getting ready to sit down for dinner and say "Hey, Big John!" You think you could squeeze out another two or three minutes of Pound Puppies? I always knew he'd call, too, because Hoyt always intended to do some writing himself at that time, but somehow he never got around to it.
    Curtin also reportedly had his own idiosyncratic ideas about Los Angeles geography. "He'd always say, 'John, can you come out and meet me halfway?' I lived in Burbank and he lived in Westwood, and 'halfway' would somehow always mean about three minutes from his house," Debney recalls. "But he knew it, he was just a character."

    Cue JW-2

    Ron Jones points out that Curtin had to try to keep his home life and professional life separate. "His wife thought that music was dirty," Jones says. "That somehow it was the red light district. Hoyt wasn't allowed to keep any musical instruments in the house. He kept a beat-up upright piano, where every third note didn't work, in his hall closet. But he had perfect pitch so he wrote everything from perfect pitch. We'd be at Denny's or Jack's Deli, and he would take the napkin, flip it over, write out the clef and say, 'Here's the bad guy theme' or 'Here's the Smurf lick,' then you'd take the boards and that's what you had to go by."
    Debney found himself dealing with Curtin's legacy years later when he wrote the score to the feature-length animated version of The Jetsons. "When I did Jetsons: The Movie, I was in a room with a bunch of suits, and I had gotten the job to score the movie, and it wasn't a great movie but it was a movie," Debney recalls. "They were in this meeting and they went, 'Now what are we gonna do for the main title?' And they all look at me. And I said, 'I think we should do the Jetsons" theme.' And they were like, 'I don't know if we really want to do that. I mean, we do have Tiffany.' They were actually proud of that! I said, 'I really think we should do the theme. I mean I'll use a bigger orchestra and fill it out a bit more, but I think we should stay true to it because when people are in a darkened theater, when this thing comes on, they're going to cheer.' I said, 'If you really want that cheer, you're going to have to play the theme.' They were really fighting me on it. And when I went to the screening and they played the theme, people clapped."

    Cue JW-232

    The Undying Spirit of Adventure
    Debney says he's even seen Curtin's effect on live-action directors who grew up listening to the composer's themes. "When I got called in to work on Spy Kids I was sitting with Robert Rodriguez and talking, and Rodriguez said, 'Maybe we could have kind of a Jonny Quest theme,' and my eyes lit up and so did his. He went over to his computer and he had the Jonny Quest theme on it. He said he used to listen to that while he was writing Spy Kids."
    Debney still carries a flame for Curtin's themes. "For my money I think that Hoyt was completely under-appreciated for what he's done," the composer says. "The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Jonny Quest. . .plus there are ones that you don't talk about but you'd remember if you heard them, like Magilla Gorilla, Wally Gator, and all that stuff we grew up on. It's so great and so catchy.
    "Hoyt was a great communicator," says Ron Jones. "His themes are like perestroika—where one word means an entire paragraph. In English we don't have a word for it so I would say in music it's the musical equivalent of direct communication. He would always tell me to keep it simple and that there's a main thing and another thing and that's it—there's nothing else. I never heard anyone else say that except Lalo Schifrin. He would emphasize a lot of melody and then say, 'What else is left?' I try to be in that mold."

    Cue P-88

    For Mark Wolfram, Curtin's joy in his work made the most lasting impact. "This is a guy who really loved what he did. There were problems on sessions. Things didn't always go the way he wanted to, and he'd have to make some changes. But most of the time this was a guy who was just having a great time. All the musicians felt the same way."
    And for a man who could write music that sent chills down the spine (like Jonny Quest) or simply make the viewer bust out into laughter. Curtin's personal sensibility couldn't have been more appropriate. "He truly was loved, and he was just hilariously funny," John Debney says. "The beauty of Hoyt was that he took the music seriously but he had a great time doing it. He kept it light, and the musicians loved him."

    Cue V-303

    Since it is Christmas Day, let me extend my thanks to you for reading this blog over the years and wish you a peaceful and healthy 2019. Here’s a great Dick Bickenbach festive season sketch of the Hanna-Barbera stars of 1958 from the collection of Bill Wray.


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  • 12/29/18--07:07: Boss Cat
  • Is it true that Top Cat was really known as Boss Cat when it first aired in England? The answer: yes.

    At the time the cartoon series was made, there was a brand of kitty food in the U.K. known as “Top Cat.” The BBC, in an attempt to avoid any hint of commercialism, changed the show’s name to The Boss Cat (and later omitted the article). To the right you see the TV listings for June 13, 1962, which was perhaps when the series made its debut.

    This begs the question about how the Auntie aired the cartoon. Was the voice track altered with “Top Cat” removed and a voice edited in saying “Boss Cat?” What about the theme song and the opening and closing titles?

    As ridiculous as it sounds, the soundtrack was left intact. Kid audiences were apparently supposed to deal with the confusion by bearing the old British stiff upper lip. The credits were dealt with by having a title card jarringly edited into Ken Muse’s animation. You can see for yourself below.



    One English critic was not going to put up with the BBC’s foolishness. Here’s a portion of the television column from The Spectator of December 21, 1962 dealing with, in part, the Hanna-Barbera prime time shows.
    Child’s-Play
    By CLIFFORD HANLEY

    ‘TOP CAT’ has returned, an even which clearly has more importance for television’s largest audience than any of the high-toned experiments in drama or education on either channel. Non-human heroes continue to have the edge over mere people among the youngest viewers, and I regularly confirm this old discovery by sitting with my back to the screen and watching my sample audience during the children’s programmes.
    ‘Top Cat’ interests me strangely too. (The BBC retitles the show Boss Cat, for reasons which I have not discovered.) It seems we aren’t going to have any more Bilko, but the immortal sergeant lives on in this two-dimensional moggie, which doesn’t only speak with Bilko’s voice but has the Bilko character precisely duplicated, including the cunning, the idiot lechery, the gambling fever and the loyal suckers gathered round him.
    Is it possible that this represents a Trend? Even the best human series wears out in time...But you never have any trouble, personal-releations-wise, with line drawing....
    The case of the Flintstones is not really so different. Barney and his mates are, if I may use the phrase very loosely, original creations. But take away the prehistoric gimmick and all you’ve got left is a perfectly ordinary old-fashioned domestic situation comedy, a Lucy-Joan-Jeannie amalgam. Thus form of entertainment, with human beings, died of inanition over five years ago, but the cartoon reincarnation isn’t only durable, it has capture an intellectual audience which would never have wasted a moment on live Lucy.
    As an old cheap gag-writer I find the Flintstones wearisome, and I feel I ought to disapprove of them in principle, as I disapprove of ‘Top Cat.’ All the same, I find myself watching both programmes with a puzzled interest if they catch my eye. I too am a sucker.
    Incidentally, Top Cat had unexpected competition on ITV Border Television, which served the area along the England-Scotland boundary. John Holmstrom wrote in the British publication New Statesman in its issue of April 3, 1964, referring to children’s television:
    The most entertaining things just now – and it’s a sad reflection on our native talent – are the American animal cartoons. Boss Cat (BBC) is great fun, but A-R’s 5.25 Friday session is richer, featuring Quick Draw McGraw (Eccles-voiced horse sheriff), Snooper and Blabber (imperturbable cat-and-mouse sleuthing partnership) and Auggie Doggie (sneaky pip with moralising Pa). The scripts are splendidly outrageous parodies of favourite Hollywood styles. It’s superb for adults, and kids, missing some of the side-swipes, rightly relish the puns and slapstick.
    The BBC put out Boss Cat in August 1967; the show was the network’s third-ranked children’s programme at the time with an audience of 2.4 million (number one, incidentally, was Dr. Who). The series returned, as Boss Cat, to the beeb four years later. In the meantime, the series began airing in November 1969 on R.T.E. in Ireland as Top Cat; certainly the Irish weren’t about to let some Englishmen tell them how to air a TV show. The BBC seems to have continued using Boss Cat as late as 1989, according to listings in The Guardian. However, from what I gather from reader Andrew Morrice, the term fell into disuse some time ago.

    One other Top Cat-related note: animation historian Jerry Beck recently told webtv host Stu Shostak that Warner Home Video is putting out Jonny Quest on Blu-ray with the correct closing titles. He says depending on sales, Warner may release “single-season, Hanna-Barbera prime-time series” on Blu-ray as well. Does this mean “Where’s Huddles?” No. Does this mean “Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home”? No. That doesn’t leave an awful lot, except for The Jetsons and, yes, Top Cat. Could they be next? Jerry’s not hinting but, and I have absolutely no clue, but as Mr. Kitzel used to say on the Al Pearce radio show, “Hmmmm, could be.....”

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  • 12/31/18--03:34: Don Lusk
  • The last surviving animator on The Jetsons’ debut cartoon in 1962 has passed away. Don Lusk was 105.

    We know he worked on the “Rosey the Robot” episode because his name is preserved in the cartoon’s review in Daily Variety (whether the frame to the right is Lusk’s, I don’t know). Expert Howard Fein says he also animated on one of my favourite Jetsons, “Elroy’s TV Show.”

    Lusk was born in California on October 28, 1913, the second son of Percy Knox and Louise Opie (Ross) Lusk. His father was from Brooklyn and his mother from Canada. His father died when he was young, his mother remarried and was left a widow again. Don was supporting his mother and grandmother while at Disney in 1940, pulling down $3,900 a year. One of his assistants at Disney was Gene Hazelton, who later ran the comic strip department at Hanna-Barbera.

    He left Disney to work on shorts at the Walter Lantz studio in the early ‘60s before his stop at Hanna-Barbera. Without getting into an endless list of credits, we’ll simply say he animated on both H-B features of the mid-‘60s—Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear and A Man Called Flintstone.

    There are so few veterans of the early days at Hanna-Barbera still around; background artist Sam Clayberger, who worked on some of the first Huckleberry Hound cartoons, died earlier this year.

    Our sympathies go to the Lusk family.

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    Dennis the Menace a Hanna-Barbera character? Well, young Allen does have some distinct similarities in the Yogi Bear newspaper comics from January 1970. Boo Boo has the month off, but we see Mrs. Ranger Smith twice. We also get some silhouette drawings, multiple Yogi heads in one panel and the idea that Cindy Bear’s dad wants to get her out of the house.

    The colour comics come from Richard Holliss’ collection.



    January 4, 1970.



    January 11, 1970.


    January 18, 1970.



    January 25, 1970.

    Click on any of the comics to blow them up.

    Note: We’re unable to do the comics from 50 years ago this month as I don’t have access to decent copies of them.

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    One of the people responsible for many of the posts on this blog never lifted a pencil or a paint brush at Hanna-Barbera. He was Arnie Carr, the man responsible for getting the studio free publicity in the media (that’s him to the right with Fred Flintstone).

    Carr was with Ziv Television in 1955 when he joined Irving Fein’s staff at CBS radio before migrating to KABC-TV, Screen Gems and then directly for Hanna-Barbera in March 1960. In September 1962, he opened his own PR agency (originally at 3487 Cahuenga Blvd.) but kept the cartoon studio as a client. Perhaps Arnie’s big claim to fame (or was it a publicity stunt) was signing the breakaway African country of Biafra as a client in 1968.

    Arnie retired from the movie/television press agent game and opened an art and jewellery gallery in Santa Monica in 1991. We lose track of him after that.

    He and his staff would have, among other things, churned out press releases about the H-B shows and studio, some of them written like newspaper stories that papers could use as much as they wanted to fill column space. They wouldn’t have been bylined, although there would likely be a contact name and number at the bottom. However, we’ve found one flack job that has Arnie’s name on it. He garnered a full page in the May 1966 edition of Studio magazine (“for and about people in the industry”) with two stock photos. It’s really a big ad, but we presume Hanna-Barbera didn’t pay ad rates for it.


    A bear by the Tail!
    OVER 300 MILLION VIEWERS WATCH ANIMATED TELEVISION
    By Arnold Carr
    When you grasp the fact that more than one-third of the total population of Europe, North and South America and Japan each week voluntarily glues itself to the animated television antics produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, you know you’ve got a bear by the tail!
    It’s true. More than 300 million men, women and children watch one or more of 15 H-B concoctions on television in some 47 lands.
    Now consider this:
    The consumer products carrying the likenesses of such diverse Hanna-Barbera characters as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Fred Flintstone have mushroomed during the past seven years into the largest merchandising Operation of its kind in the world. Projected gross retail sales via more than 1500 licensed manufacturers of some 4,500 products ranging from Flintstone window shades to Yogi Bear bubble bath in 1966. More than $150 million.
    And this:
    The soaring success of the Hanna-Barbera combo actually dates back just seven years to the day they were relieved of their duties at MGM Studios — although the partnership first flowered 25 years ago when they created the seven-times Oscar winning cartoon short, “Tom & Jerry,” at the same studio.
    Today, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., owns and fills a Contemporary 3-story, $1,250,000 building on a 2 1/2 acre plot in North Hollywood, California; and employs some 350 artists, technicians, writers and directors in the largest animation studio operation in the world.
    Additionally, H-B is engaged in the production of commercials and industrial films, both animated and live-action, for many of the nation’s leading corporations. In fact, total H-B production budget for 1966 will hit approximately 20 million.
    Moreover, Hanna-Barbera is currently producing two live-action pilot films for the 1967 season. It is also entering into the production of live action, full-length feature films.
    The Hanna-Barbera record label, established in 1964, is already one of the fastest growing Companies in the business. It adds up to an impressive achievement which started in the spring of 1957, when out of work and out of necessity, Hanna and Barbera began thinking in terms of cartoon shows for television.
    H-B’s first television offering was “Ruff and Reddy.”
    In rapid succession the nation took to its heart the likes of “Huckleberry Hound” (the first half-hour animated series on TV), “Quick Draw McGraw” (the slowest horse in the West) and “The Flintstones,” “Yogi Bear,” “Top Cat” and “The Jetsons” “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy the Lion” and “Wally Gator.” “Magilla Gorilla,” “Peter Potamus,” “Atom Ant,” “Secret Squirrel,” and “Johnny Quest” [sic] bringing the total of 15 TV series from Hanna-Barbera on the world’s airwaves concurrently.
    It is a notable sidelight to this smashing success in visual imagery that neither Hanna nor Barbera began his career as a cartoonist or artist.
    Bill Hanna was born in Melrose, New Mexico, and spent his school years studying engineering and journalism and accidentally turned to cartooning.
    Joe Barbera was born in New York City and attended the American Institute of Banking. An inveterate doodler and dreamer, Barbera started submitting gag drawings to leading magazines and managed to sell one to Collier’s. This led Barbera to a brief huddle with himself (about seven seven minutes) during which he determined to seek a career in cartooning as opposed to the world of finance.
    In 1937, Bill Hanna was hired by MGM as a director and story man in the cartoon division, and Joe Barbera simultaneously was employed as an animator and writer at the same studio.
    During their 20-year tenure at MGM, the team turned out more than 125 segments of the aforementioned and highly acclaimed “Tom and Jerry” theatrical cartoon. Their annual animation production of approximately 45 minutes per year at MGM compares dramatically with an output at Hanna-Barbera Productions of that much material each week.
    Operating a multi-million dollar entertainment empire without inter-office memos and with a consistent open-door policy is considered unorthodox even by Hollywood Standards.
    But the warm comraderie of the H-B operations has produced artistic and economic success as impressive to Hollywood as to the business world and the 300 million weekly viewers of all their shows.

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    El Kabong is funny. The orange, bad-guy Snagglepuss is funny. Put them together and you have a funny cartoon. And the cartoon is even funnier if the animator is George Nicholas.

    They all appear together in El Kabong meets El Kazing (1960). It’s one of my favourite Quick Draw McGraw cartoons as Snagglepuss abuses the dopey lawman through the whole cartoon until Baba Looey, as El Kapowee, swings in on a rope with his own kabongger.

    Nicholas was hired at Hanna-Barbera after production ended on Sleeping Beauty and Walt Disney laid off a bunch of animators. Here’s an example of why I like Nicholas’ animation. He tries to do something with limited animation. This scene shows Snagglepuss entering the cartoon from his cave. Look at the curves he gives Snagglepuss’ arm and tail.



    You know how the studio would have done it a few years later. Snagglepuss would likely peek out behind the cave overlay then enter on one drawing with dry bush speed lines toward the cave.

    As in any good Quick Draw McGraw cartoon written by Mike Maltese, the off-screen narrator and the characters have a little conversation. Here’s what Nicholas does when the narrator catches Snagglepuss’ attention. The mountain lion’s head turns in five positions. Other animators would probably do three. Nicholas loved beady eyes; you can see it all through this cartoon and many others he worked on.



    “You don’t look much like a nemesis to me,” opines the narrator. Snagglepuss gets indignant. Again, another fine expression by Nicholas. He tilts Snagglepuss’ head ever so slightly in six drawings.



    Timing is generally up to the director, but in this scene Nicholas has some unique timing. Normally, you’d find drawings shot on twos, occasionally on ones or threes. Nicholas varies the timing here; Ed Love used to have his own timing at Hanna-Barbera as well. The second drawing is on fours, the third and fourth drawings are on threes, the fifth drawing is on twos, the sixth is shot twice before Snagglepuss starts his dialogue; only his head is animated for part of the scene, then Snagglepuss gestures with his right arm.

    You can go back about six years on the blog and read a review HERE.

    The layouts in this cartoon are by Walt Clinton. He would have designed the incidental characters, like the ones in the opening shot (there is a quick right pan from one pair of characters to the other). I love the bull and sheep.


    By the way, I apologise for some inept masking here. One of the things that sucked valuable time making posts on this blog for years is that unless these cartoons were released on DVD, they are dubs from American cable TV. They have a station ID bug plastered on them. I’ve tried to cover the bugs with varying degrees of success. I wish I had bug-less copies of them (especially the first two seasons of the Quick Draw show) but since I don’t, you’re getting the best I can do with the time and limited skills I have.

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  • 01/12/19--07:15: Huck the Canuck
  • Huckleberry Hound, Pixie and Dixie and Yogi Bear didn’t come to Canada until 1959, but their new series got some praise in the Canadian media the year before. The Vancouver Sun lauded the cartoon series in its TV column of November 27, 1958, less than two months after the Huckleberry Hound Show debuted in the U.S.

    The reason is simple. Vancouver is not too far from the U.S. border and kids could tune in Huck on Channel 5 in Seattle. Kids (and others) in the Vancouver and Victoria areas were actually pretty lucky. Not only could they watch Huck on Thursdays on KING-TV, they could tune him in on CBUT and CHEK-TV on Wednesdays starting January 7, 1959. By 1961, KVOS-TV in Bellingham, about 20 miles across the border in Washington State, aired Huck as well, meaning you could see Huck three times every week!

    (As a side note, Quick Draw McGraw got the three-times-a-week treatment as well, and the prime-time Bugs Bunny Show aired twice a week, once on the CBC, once on ABC. Add to that the various morning/afternoon cartoon shows on local TV. We didn’t need a “Cartoon Network” back then).

    Anyway, here’s Jim Gilmore’s column. It appears no one told him about Daws Butler. The publicity shot of Huck the paper ran isn’t available.

    You can have your Pogos, your Charlie Browns and your Mr. Magoos. I'll take Huckleberry Hound every time. And just who is Huckleberry Hound, you ask? Man, If you haven't heehawed at Huck, you're working too hard.
    Huckleberry H. just happens to be television's first adult cartoon, and the first half hour program to be entirely animated. Never touched by human hands, so to speak.
    Huckleberry, as you can see by his picture, is a hound dog. He comes from the deep south, and you will recognize his cornpone voice as soon as you hear it. It's sort of hard to describe here.
    One of Huck's henchmen is a big, bumbling bear, name of Yogi. Yogi Bear. Now, his voice is a real corker. Sounds exactly like Art Carney's "Helloo there Ralphy, boy!" Ed Norton characterization from The Honeymooners.
    There are other little people, er animals, too, including Pixie and Dixie, a couple of "meece."
    Huckleberry Hound is the inspired creation of two men William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. You've probably laughed at another of their cartoons—Tom and Jerry.
    * * *
    Hanna and Barbara, who also do most of the voice characterizations for Huckleberry, have turned out over 200 films detailing the adventures of Jerry, the mischievous rodent, Tom, the bungling feline, and, of course, Spike, the ferocious bulldog. Since Huckleberry Hound befriended Channel 5 last month, he has cultivated an extremely loyal, and ever-growing following.
    Huck returns tonight at 6, with three more adventures "Two Corny Crows,""Baffled Bears," and "Ghost with the Most." Watch for him.
    About the closest Huck came to being a Canadian was when he played a Mountie in Tricky Trapper (1958) with his North Carolina accent intact. HERE is our review of the cartoon from almost ten years ago. Below is the great opening background that’s panned left to right. Click on it to see a bigger version. It’s the work of veteran Bob Gentle.


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    A variety of stories fill the Flintstones’ Sunday comics on this month in 1970 (we can’t do 50 years ago this month as the comics aren’t available in readable form). Betty returns for one comic, Pops is in another. No Dino. I’ve given up hope of seeing Baby Puss again.

    Blow up any of the comics by clicking on them.


    January 4, 1970. Barney was pretty easy-going in the cartoon series; I can’t picture a snowman likeness bothering him unless maybe Fred had an insulting sign attached to it. I like the first panel’s composition. A snowman in the background is covered by the title in the mid-ground which is partly covered by Pebbles in the foreground.


    January 11, 1970. Some newspapers would only publish the bottom two rows of a three-row comic. If they did in this case, readers would only miss an unrelated gag. You’d figure everything back in the Stone Age would taste like wild game.


    January 18, 1970. Betty’s head doesn’t move.


    January 25, 1970. Fred’s back working day shift. His boss is not Mr. Slate in the comics for whatever reason. Observe the boss is smoking a cigar. I imagine the writer grew up close to the era where tycoons smoked cigars and wore suits with vests and pocket watches. I don’t remember many people outside of George Burns puffing on a cigar by 1970. Richard Holliss supplied the colour cartoon from his collection.

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    Charlie Shows wrote the dialogue for the first season Yogi Bear was on the air (1958-59) and drove me nuts. He’d come up with rhyming couplets at the ends of Yogi’s sentences, things like “Looks like I’ve got you over a barrel, Darrell!” These struck me, even as a kid, as being really forced because in the aforementioned example, the character being referred to wasn’t named Darrell. Yogi was rhyming for the sake of rhyming.

    (A side note: Paul Simon recorded a song in 1975 called “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” which did the same thing. I’ve never liked the song, either).

    However, I must have been in the minority. Teenagers at one high school in the U.S. seem to think the dialogue was great.

    The high school section of the Asbury Park Press published a piece on April Fools Day 1959 interviewing students in one local town about the Huck show. They all made out with rhyming dialogue like you’d hear on the show, Moe.

    The “word-type-word” (ie. “show type show”) lines aren’t something I’ve heard a lot of, but Yogi used the phrase “tourist type tourists” in one cartoon (Brainy Bear).

    Huck and Yogi TV Favorites
    By SONNY HALL '60

    TOMS RIVER - "It's too cool, Boo Boo!" exclaimed Dwight West, sophomore at Tom's River High School, when asked to comment on Huckleberry Hound. A large number of Toms River students faithfully watch this show every Thursday night. Without fail they are seated in front of their TV sets by 6:29 1/2 p.m.
    This adult cartoon show is starting to plague Toms River High. The six characters of the show, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo (a confused little bear), Pixie and Dixie (the meeces, and Mr. Jinks (the cat who hates them meeces to pieces), are a part of almost everyone's conversation. When class is over one doesn't say "let's go" anymore one says "let's skidoo, Boo-Boo." or, instead of speaking of the gymnasium, everyone calls it a "gym type gym."
    When asked to comment about the show, some of the replies received were as follows:
    "Those meeces are way out!" said Pennie Hotaling, junior.
    "I think so too, Boo-Boo," said Pat Trenery, junior.
    "I love them meeces to pieces," said Dona Wheeler, junior.
    "It's a show type show," said Al Lehrer, freshman.
    "It's better than the average show!" said Susan Polsky, junior.
    "I wouldn't miss a Yogi Bear cartoon for the moon. See you soon!" said Barbara Hall, sophomore.
    "Huckleberry Hound is the coolest cartoon show yet. You bet," said Bill Norcross, junior.
    "It's the best show in a long time. I'd bet you a dime," said Saul Whynman, junior.
    When Warren Foster replaced Shows in 1959, he kept the idea of rhymes but there was bit of rhythm to them instead of the contrived twosomes, eg. “There’s someone new in cabin two” (heard in Bewitched Bear).

    The one Shows rhyme I really like—at least I’ll give him the credit for it—is Mr. Jinks’ catchphrase “I hate meeces to pieces!” It’s a statement that makes perfect sense, and you wouldn’t expect someone like the egotistical Jinksie to know the correct term is “mice.” So, no, I’m not bashing Mr. Shows all the time. I’m not too snarly, Charlie.

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