DePatie-Freleng (DFE) was one of the major animation studios active in the 1960s and ’70s, mostly made up of Looney Tunes animators after Warner Bros. closed down their animation studio. They didn’t do that many television series, but they were kept busy for over 17 years, producing theatrical shorts well into the late 1970s when other studios gave up. They were also noted for their television specials, many of them based on the works of Dr. Seuss.
Then you have the commercials. David H. DePatie was in charge of Warner Bros’ commercial division and built rapport with numerous ad agencies, so when he and Friz formed their own company they were able to have commercial work flowing. In the 1970s, they got more work flowing when the ABC Television Network commissioned DFE to produce PSAs that would air during their Saturday Morning blocks. Many of them are still remembered by people who grew up watching them, not knowing that they were done by the same people that made the Pink Panther shorts.
For this post, I decided to highlight some of those PSAs.
Time for Timer
Timer is probably one of the most well-known of these PSAs. The character first appeared in an hour-long television special The Incredible, Indelible, Magical Physical, Mystery Trip, which aired on ABC in February 7, 1973. The special, directed by former UPA production manager Herbert Klynn, featured Timer taking two kids to visit inside the body of their uncle, Carl (played by Hal Smith in live-action scenes), showing how certain body parts struggle due to his poor health habits. The character appeared in one more special The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red’s Head (1974), where Timer takes two kids to go inside their older sister’s head.
The specials were well received when they aired. It was enough to have the characters be used in a series of PSAs, running between 30 seconds to 1 minute. Timer’s songs about healthy eating is memorable and still fondly remembered today. The character appeared in Family Guy, where Peter complained that his constant singing is keeping him awake next door. He also appeared in Robot Chicken, ensuring that his legacy won’t be forgotten entirely.
Here’s one PSA. Storyboarded by Art Leonardi (see image below – click to enlarge).
The Bod Squad
This was yet another series of PSAs that DFE has done. Like Timer, the purpose was to teach kids on how to be healthy, promoting body hygiene and healthy nutrition. These segments would run for 30 seconds and would feature catchy songs.
Some of these Bod Squad PSAs feature singing work by Scatman Crothers, such as this one. The appealingly grotesque animation was done by Don Williams, long-time animator dating back to the 1930s. (Thanks to Mike Kazaleh for ID’ing this)
Don’t Drown Your Food
Sometimes PSAs can be incredibly pointless, and this is a good example. Healthy eating and taking care of your body is, obviously, important, so it makes sense to promote them to kids, but one has to ponder why smothering your food with sauce is enough of a big deal to do an entire PSA about it.
At least we got a catchy song out of this. That’s Arnold Stang doing the voice, having lent his talent for Herman the Mouse and Top Cat years before this. His biggest role for DFE was being the voice of Catfish, Misterjaw’s sidekick in a series of shorts that aired on the Pink Panther Show in the 1970s.
Make a Saturdae
Another PSA focusing on healthy snacks, this time focusing on a “Saturdae” (it’s just like Sundae). Doesn’t stand out as much, but here it is since it fits with my subject.
These PSAs aired for a long-time, well after DFE closed down their studio (circa. 1979). They’re not as famous as Schoolhouse Rock, but to anyone who grew up watching ABC Saturday Mornings, they still bring back nostalgic memories.