ANIMATION SPIN
August 8, 2017 posted by

Felix, Huck, Yogi & Jack Mercer on Movie Wheel Records

Its here! The Amazing New Hi-Fi Theatre that brings your cartoon favorites to fun-filled life through the modern miracle of the Dial-O-Matic Picture Tuner!

MOVIE WHEELS Present Pat Sullivan’s
FELIX THE CAT

Thrilling Action Entertainment in Full Hi-Fi Sound
Movie Wheels MW-1001 (7 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)

Released in 1960. Writer/Producer/Directors: Paul White, Ruth Roche. Music: Winston Sharples. Recording Engineering: Felix the Cat Creations. Illustrations: Joe Oriolo. Cover Design: Aldo Rubano. Printed by Radio Printing Corp, Bridgeport, CT. Recorded and Manufactured in U.S.; Record Pressed in West Germany. Running Time: 8 minutes.

Voices: Jack Mercer (Felix, Slim, Spike, Policeman).

In the baby boom era before almost anyone could literally reach over and grab a classic movie or beloved TV show on DVD or Blu-ray to watch it – or just stream it in seconds- there were only a few, very limited ways for kids to bring non-broadcast, non-theatrical entertainment into their homes (unless they were of substantial financial means).

Various film toys by Kenner, View-Master and others, made it possible to watch still slides or short clips of cartoons and some live-action shows at home (we talked about a Kenner cartoon record product back here). Eight-millimeter home movies provided longer films, some with sound at higher prices. Seeing a short cartoon or comedy was possible, but a feature or even a half hour show was unlikely for most kids.

Some of the most charming ways to simulate cartoon fun without any films or equipment was with low-tech toys that did the best they could with what limits they had. For example several products used two-pose silhouette cartoons that appeared to move when moved under clear sheets with black bars (another evergreen technique still used in cards and books today). Many of these toys dated back to the earliest forms of animated devices.

Movie Wheels were a short-lived twist on an evergreen format that continues to be used for greeting cards, educational products and even travel guides (the very first Epcot maps were done in this way). A paper disc is held between two larger paper boards. The boards are cut with little windows allowing images and text can be seen as the disc is rotated.

Like a read-along book and record, Movie Wheels followed the story with a signal telling the listeners when to change the picture. The instructions on the package made it seem much more complicated than it really is, perhaps to make the overall value appear to be more rich and marvelous. At any rate, for a 1960s kid, it was pretty cooland especially cool because the first title in the series featured the actual voice, music, and even a couple of sound effects from the current Felix the Cat TV show.

For cartoon fans and historians, another plus is the art of animation legend Joe Oriolo himself on the wheel illustrations, done in a very loose pen-and-ink style. Not too many toys bear the personal art of the shows producer.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Movie Wheels Present Felix the Cat

The record is quite good in that Jack Mercer does all the voices in his signature style, and there are numerous Winston Sharples library cues (very few of which ever appeared on records). Basically, Felix plays with his reel-to-reel tape recorder for his Movie Wheels friends and then has a train adventure. Even the theme is included!


MOVIE WHEELS Presents Hanna-Barbera’s HUCKLEBERRY HOUND in Moon Jumper
and YOGI BEAR in The Big Boom

Thrilling Action Entertainment in Full Hi-Fi Sound
Movie Wheels MW-1002 (7 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)

Released in 1960. Writer/Producer/Directors: Paul White, Ruth Roche. Music: Hoyt Curtin, Joseph Barbera, William Hanna. Recording Engineer: Lee Olsen. Illustrations: Frank Little. Cover Design: Aldo Rubano. Printed by Radio Printing Corp, Bridgeport, CT. Recorded and Manufactured in U.S. Record Pressed in West Germany. Running Time: 7 minutes.

Voices: Jack Mercer (Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo, Security Officer); Jim Sparks (Huckleberry Hound, Narrator, General, Technicians, Ranger Rogers).

The very things that the Felix Movie Wheels package has going for it are detriments to the Huckleberry Hound/Yogi Bear version. Jack Mercer does the best he can to play Huckand an announcer named Jim Sparks sounds to be playing Yogi. Other oddities include the replacement of Ranger Smith with a generic ranger and the depiction of Pixie and Dixie in silhouette. No model sheets? Licensing issues?

On the plus side, there are a few snippets of Huck and Yogi music by Hoyt Curtin from the very early era, when he wasnt doing much in the way of background music and H-B was using production library music for its cartoons.

It might have been nice to see how Joe Oriolo might have handled these character illustrations, but he did not wield the pens here. The art is better than much of the sometimes eye-straining off-model work of the 60s and 70s, but it does have the feel of its era. A lot of us would have wanted it as kids, despite the vocal changes.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN

Movie Wheels Present Huckleberry Hound & Yogi Bear

There is some inconsistency in the sound quality that is not present on the Felix the Cat record, as if this production was revised a few times. Not the best of the non-original cast cartoon records (and there are some pretty good ones), but certainly fascinating.

5 Comments

  • The second story on the Felix record is actually a direct adaptation of “Jigsore,” an Otto Messmer story from an early 1950s comic book. Felix has been redrawn to remove his engineer’s outfit, but plenty of Messmer details remain in the art: https://comics.ha.com/itm/original-comic-art/otto-messmer-felix-the-cat-41-page-original-art-group-of-8-toby-press-1953-felix-s-talent-with-puzzles-comes-in-hand-total-8-items-/a/16064-16403.s?ic4=GalleryView-ShortDescription-071515

  • Thanks, David! Thanks so much for that information!

    I can’t emphasize enough that I consider the comments on Spin as one of the rewards for writing it every week. They’re insightful, fun and interesting. No one can every know everything, and I’m certainly in no danger of it!

  • In Jack Mercer’ s biography by Fred Grandinetti, this is not even mentioned as part of his recording career.

    • Wow! Never knew about these! Great to hear Jack doing Felix the Cat!

  • I had never even known of the existence of these records. Thanks for posting! It’s always nice to hear new Jack Mercer material and even nicer when it includes Winston Sharples music! 🙂

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