ANIMATION SPIN
October 7, 2014 posted by

Filmation’s “Mission Magic” (1973)

A trip with Rick Springfield through the magic door to a land of bubblegum music and colorful ‘70s grooviosity.

MissionMagic-CDcoverRICK SPRINGFIELD – MISSION: MAGIC
Wizard Records ZL-205 (Stereo) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1974)
CD Reissue: Master Classics MCS-8022-2 (2004)

Producer: Robie Porter for Porter/Binder Productions. Musicians: Jim Keitner, Russ Kunkel, Ray Arnott, Barry Morgan, Carol Kaye, Lee Sklar, Barry Sullivan, Rick Springfield. Recording/Mixing: John Fischbach, Ern Rose. Recorded 1971-1974 at Armstrong’s Recording Studios, Melbourne, Australia and Crystal Studios, Hollywood, CA. LP Running Time: 41 minutes; CD Running Time: 44 minutes.

Songs: “Theme from Mission: Magic,” “We’re Gonna Have a Good Time,” “It’s Driving Me Crazy,” “Free and Easy,” “You Can Really Do It (If You Try),” “On the Other Side,” “You Can’t Judge a Book,” “Love is the Key,” “You’d Better Think Twice,” “Welcome to the Rodeo,” “I Want You,” “Just Gotta Sing,” “We Help One Another,” Starlight, Starbright,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “I Know That It’s Magic,” “Speak to the Sky (CD bonus track)” by Rick Springfield.

missionmagic-dvdFilmation was thriving when this often-overlooking one-season series ran on ABC Saturday mornings. In the manner of early-‘70s kidvid, it weaves pro-social messages (don’t lie, try hard, etc.) into the story lines.

Miss Tickle (voice of Broadway star Lola Fisher) is a schoolteacher who, very much like Ms. Frizzle on The Magic School Bus, takes her class through fantastic adventures. The Friz’s school bus journeys were based on fact; she and her kids went anywhere from outer space to an active colon. Tickle takes her students through a magic door on her blackboard to fantasy worlds populated mostly by over-the-top villains and comic thugs where the social lesson is exemplified.

The Tickle group’s adventures come by way of messages from a magic gramophone. Beckoning them for assistance (and playing himself) is young and not-yet-a-superstar-in-the-U.S. pop singer Rick Springfield. ABC asked Filmation’s Lou Scheimer to find a way to do a series around the young singer, and the resulting premise somehow works fairly well, considering how convoluted it is.

Springfield wrote all the songs for the series (except one that Miss Tickle sings in an episode called “Horse Feathers”). The songs are quite good—each brimming with catchy “hooks”—right in line with the kind of music Filmation featured on The Archies, The Brady Kids and Groovie Goolies. It’s a little bit Beatles, some hand-clapping early Neil Diamond and a whole lot of Ron Dante and The Archies. Though his songs have several musical influences, it is conceivable that Springfield studied a few of the Archies’ albums to capture the general cartoon pop style heard in Filmation shows of the era.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Theme from Mission: Magic”
This is another of those Saturday morning theme songs that takes only a few listens to become planted in grey matter for all time. The TV series never played the theme, or any of the songs, all the way through, including the theme, but the album presented the entire tune.


CCBB-LolaRichard

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Song and Picture Book
Lola Fisher and Richard Sherman
Orchestra & Chorus Conducted by LeRoy Holmes

United Artists SLP-108 (Stereo / 12” LP / 27 minutes / 1968)

CD Reissue: Kritzerland KR-20020-5 (Part of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Very Very Special Edition Soundtrack (2011)
Songs: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “You Two,” “Hushabye Mountain,” “Toot Sweets,” “Me Ol’ Bamboo,” “Lovely, Lonely Man,” “Posh!” “Doll on a Music Box & Truly Scrumptious,” “Chu-Chi Face,” “The Roses of Success by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.

A lot of late ‘60s movie musicals were released alongside avalanches of merchandise, including dozens of “studio versions” of the scores—a highly profitable enterprise if the property is a hit. United Artists Records emulated Disneyland Records by issuing their own studio version of the Chitty score with a picture book inside the gatefold cover.

My_Fair_Lady_Lola-300Lola Fisher stands in for the movie’s co-star, Sally Ann Howes. It’s a role Fisher was well suited for, as she understudied Julie Andrews in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady. Fisher had moved to the West Coast by this time, enjoying a steady career in voice work and supporting roles (she was in three Here’s Lucy episodes and the Bewitched episode in which Tabitha turns her schoolmate into a butterfly).

Fisher sounds very much like Howes, especially in ballads such as “Lovely Lonely Man” and “Hushabye Mountain.” Of course, it’s always a treat to hear Richard Sherman sing the songs he wrote with his brother Bob, especially when the songs are so lavishly orchestrated (most likely in London).

Veteran composer/arranger/conductor LeRoy Holmes was responsible for many United Artists albums in the ‘60s and had a long Hollywood career. His interpretations of the Chitty songs are in the style of British music hall and late ‘60s UK television variety shows—these songs sound as if they could have been performed on The Morecambe and Wise Show.

Kritzerland reissued this album as part of a wonderful two-disc Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack special edition that also contains demos of songs from the film and some that did not make the cut, as well as the soundtrack mixed as carefully as possible to diminish the overdone reverb of the original disc.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Chu Chi Face”
Critics who derided this song as sappy miss the comedic point. Like a Carol Burnett or Mel Brooks routine, the very sweetness is the comic counterpoint to the fact that Baron and Baroness (whom Fisher and Sherman are portraying in this selection) are trying to kill each other. In the incongruity is the brilliance.

12 Comments

  • Greg:
    The Rick Springfield cut was about as Seventies as you could possibly get!And the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song was delightful,now that I know the background behind it,and why it sounded just a trifle sappy!Thanks!

  • Rick Springfield gave a brief mention of MISSION MAGIC in a recently published biogaraphy. In polite terms, He didn’t like it.

  • Miss Tickle, without the other characters, guest-stared in an episode of THE BRADY KIDS during it’s second and last season – most likely a budget episode to reuse animation from both series 🙂

  • Mission: Magic! was actually a pretty cool concept and was kind of ahead of its time. The weirdness and psychedelic references just added to the interesting ploy that a basic message was being taught in each episode. Plus, apparently the artwork was fashioned with “Yellow Submarine” in mind, so a cartoony feel was enough to attract young viewers (even though Springfield himself was a teen heart-throb).

    It had some neat ideas in it:
    – Miss Tickle was a magic user (not a witch) and her magic was often limited to scholastic items she carried around in her purse (break from the ‘all-powerful wizard’ lead character);
    – Nobody ever explained why Rick survived on the other side of the blackboard, as he didn’t have magic powers himself, but it was inferred that he and Miss Tickle were some sort of patrol team with a history;
    – The kids in Miss Tickle’s Adventure Club also seemed to know Rick too, and recognize him as a pop idol with some established level of fame, making this whole arrangement even more strange (and Carol’s crush on Rick is evident amongst everyone, including Miss Tickle).

    Yet as a kid I was fanatic about this show- even though it followed the Filmation template, the flying colours, the obvious ethnically-mixed class and bizarre lands that existed “on the other side of the blackboard” kept me coming back and watching week after week. I wonder if the fact that it only lasted one season had anything to do with the fact that Springfield didn’t like doing them?

  • Years after its original release, when Rick Springfield was scoring some big hits on the charts, the “Mission: Magic” LP was repackaged and reissued as (of all things) a giveaway premium item for Solo plastic cups! The title was changed to “Big Hits!” (though there weren’t any) but the cover was otherwise identical, with all the Filmation characters. Solo Cups may be remembered for their endless series of giveaway records by one Dora Hall, the wife of the company’s founder. (Available at a garage sale near you!)

    I recently turned up a bizarre LP, “Hi, Guys! Ted Knight Sings,” produced by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott (!) and released on Ranwood, a record label owned by Lawrence Welk. It includes everything from a cover version of “Mr. Custer” to the hit (?) “I’m In Love With Barbara Walters!” Spoofing Gladys Knight and the Pips, the vocals are credited to “Ted Knight and the Poops.” Arrangements were by Al Capps, noted at the time for his work with Cher (he co-wrote “Half-Breed.”)

    • I recently turned up a bizarre LP, “Hi, Guys! Ted Knight Sings,” produced by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott (!) and released on Ranwood, a record label owned by Lawrence Welk.

      Learned something new today, thanks Jeff! Interesting Lou and Norm would find time for that.

    • I remember Solo Records! I have an LP called “Young Broadway, Young Hollywood” by Bill Justis and His Orchestra, as well as a Dora Hall LP for kids called “Tony the Pony.” Ms. Hall fancied herself a musical comedy star, so her husband would buy her a syndicated TV special every once in a while. One was called “Once Upon a Tour” with Frank Sinatra Jr. that was also an album.

      But I had no idea the Mission: Magic LP was released on Solo, too!

      The neat thing about the Ted Knight album is that it has “Produced by Filmation” on the back cover. Ted Knight was good friend of Filmation as he did early voices for Aquaman and other shows, as well as playing the role of one of the “staff members” during that fabled day when DC execs visited and Filmation had to “cast” an animation studio (he tells the story on several Filmation DVD bonus features). Knight promoted the album on talk shows, including Merv Griffin’s, upon which he even mentioned he Filmation friends.

  • Hi Greg!
    I have an unusual Leroy Holmes LP, “Music for Radio, Television and Film”, which was apparently part of a “United Artists Recorded Music Library”. It’s UA catalog # UAMG 10272, released in 1974, with just a plain sleeve. I’d be delighted to send it to you if you don’t already have it, and would like to add it to your archives. Let me know!
    Sincerely,
    William Carroll
    Denham Springs, Louisiana

    • That’s kind of you, Good Good. Please email me at greg@mousetracksonline.com.

    • Will do, Greg. I’m on Gmail, so you might have to check your spam folder! Sincerely, William

    • Greg, tried for weeks to get in touch with you about the Leroy Holmes LP, but never heard back after many attempts.
      – W.

  • Miss Tickle = mystical… I see what they did there.

    Yeah, the show did seem to be a precursor for “The Magic School Bus.”

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