ANIMATION SPIN
January 13, 2015 posted by

Hanna-Barbera’s “Atom Ant” Records

Atom Ant takes on giant ants from outer space before offering his personal views on diet and fitness for those who over-indulged a bit during the 1964 holiday season.

AtomAntHBR-600

Hanna-Barbara Presents
ATOM ANT in “Muscle Magic”

Hanna-Barbera Records Cartoon Series HLP-2041 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1965)

Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Producer/Writer/Director: Charles Shows. Music: Hoyt Curtin. Song Arrangements: Al Capps, Stan Farber. Editor: Dan Finnerty. Engineer: Richard Olsen. Mastering: Dave Diller, Joe Leahy. Art Direction: Harvard Pennington. Hand Lettering: Robert Schaefer. Cover Art: Richard Khim. Running Time: 29 minutes.

Voices: Don Messick (Atom Ant, Narrator, Sherriff Bo Diddley, Air Force Operator, Little Bird Johnson, French Delegate, Ants); Daws Butler (Chief Mildew, Governor, LBJ, British Delegate, Reporter, Ants); Janet Waldo (Woman at Picnic, Phone Operator); Stan Farber, Al Capps, Ron Hicklin (The Hanna-Barbera Singers).
Songs: “Atom Ant” by Hoyt Curtin, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera; “Up and Atom,” “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Muscle Magic” by Stan Farber and Charles & Peggy Shows.

atom-ant-coloringThe first two thirds of this album are among the most well-executed 21 minutes on all the HBR Cartoon Series, or at the very least, a chief example of why this series of records is still remembered and revered by so many of its devotees.

Taking a page out of histrionic ‘50s sci-fi movies, a small rural town is terrorized by giant ants from outer space. How this plays out in audio is superb, between the voice acting, the H-B library music (mostly from Jonny Quest), sound effects and editing—making the mental picture more spectacular than a visual could (especially in limited animation). Add to that a little 1965 political satire (complete with HBR’s favorite comedy foil, Lyndon Baines Johnson), and this is primo stuff for the label.

A few minutes into side two, the story is resolved. This could have been the end of the album, and with the four songs, could have been acceptable as a children’s LP with a short running time. Some records, even though they were LP’s, ran 15-20 minutes. But instead, more material is included that could be seen as padding or as a way to offer a comparable value to other HBR’s.

atom-ant-paly-funIn that last section, a reporter (Daws Butler) interviews Atom Ant (Don Messick) about fitness and nutrition. Some of Atom Ant’s responses are common sense: get plenty of exercise and eat right. Some are dated: eat lots of red meat. And some are… well…: Atom tells the reporter the Greek myth about Milo who became strong from running around with a calf that grew to a bull. NOTE: Ask your doctor before beginning any excessive red meat diet or bovine exercise program.

The songs are done largely in the same mellow style as those on the Winsome Witch LP, as opposed to the beach party variety heard on the Precious Pupp album. Most notable is the fact that this is one of the very few HBR Cartoon Series albums with the actual theme song—sung by the “Hanna-Barbera Singers” rather than spoken by Ted Cassidy as it is on the cartoon soundtrack.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The White House, LBJ and Atom Ant
This sequence contains one of the best examples of great voice acting on records. Daws Butler, as the British U.N. delegate, has a very ordinary line, yet transforms it into a comic gem with masterful inflection and a hysterically funny way of saying an otherwise unpleasant word: bombs.

4 Comments

  • As you say, this album is a true tour-de-force. I love Janet Waldo’s reaction to the giant ants–it is exactly out of a 50’s low-budget sci-fi movie. And the gentle political humor is rich and holds up even today. What’s missing is where the giant ants came from (no explanation is given) and Atom Ant’s “thinking like an ant,” which he promises but does not deliver. Instead, he beats the ants through super strength and no particular strategy. I do feel that after the big buildup to Atom Ant, more could and should have been done with the character once he is introduced. The menace is dispatched almost too quickly and easily. Even in the cartoons, Atom had to use strategy to solve some of the challenges. The latter part of the story could have been beefed up, thus rendering the interview at the end less necessary to fill time.

    The interview is interesting and fun, but it seems aimed at a younger audience than the preceding story. Also, doesn’t the interviewer sound remarkably like Huckleberry Hound? When I listen to the record, I keep imagining a blue reporter with a black nose.

    Don Messick’s take on Atom Ant is only slightly different from that of Howard Morris. He does a very competent job as always. Apparently, Morris was unavailable for any of the HBR series, which may be the reason why there was no Mushmouse and Punkin’ Puss album. This is another instance where the voice actor on the album can almost make one forget that someone else did the original voice. Daws Butler did an equally competent job of replacing Doug Young as Doggie Daddy on the Pinocchio album.

    The rendition of the Atom Ant theme song makes a nice change for this series, instead of replacing it with a “new” song for the character. It’s also nice to hear the lyrics sung instead of spoken. This and the Secret Squirrel album are, I believe, the only ones that used the original TV theme songs.

    I had one of those Atom Ant play sets in the picture. Just recently re-discovered it when we prepared my mother’s house for sale. It’s a nice set and still in good shape. My brother and I spent hours playing with the Atom Ant characters. Those were the days!

  • Great audio clip.
    Reminds me of old-time network radio programs
    (which many H-B voices were previously involved with).

  • Didja know Tony Robbins, the late-night infomercial huckster, is Charles Shows’ grandson?

    • Yes, and Charles Shows also has a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame.

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