ANIMATION ANECDOTES
September 10, 2013 posted by Jim Korkis

It’s “Time for Beany”!

beany-puppets

Bob Clampett’s Time for Beany featuring Cecil, the Sea Sick Sea Serpent, made out of pale green terry-cloth for skin with sewn on eyes and buttons representing nostrils, premiered on February 28, 1949 from Los Angeles television station KTLA-Channel 5 that was adjacent to the Paramount movie lot, “Time for Beany” ran live Monday through Friday in fifteen minute installments for five years. (Kinescopes, the videotape equivalent of the day, were later sent to stations nationwide.)

The premise of the show was that a wide-eyed innocent young boy in overalls and stripped shirt and wearing a beany cap with a propeller cap was lost at sea along with his uncle, Captain Horatio K. Huffenpuff, who commanded a one-sail ship dubbed “The Leakin’ Lena”. On that first episode, Beany turned to his uncle and asked, “Maybe we’re lost. Are you sure you know where we are?” Captain Huffenpuff confidently replied, “Beany boy, I know every wave in this ocean. (sound of a splash) Ha! There’s one of ‘em now!”

Also on that first episode while the good captain was below deck, a lisping green sea serpent popped up to utter his later to be famous greeting of “Howdy!” to the young boy. “I’m Cecil, the Sea Sick Sea Serpent (hiccup) and I’m seasick (starts to sway). Stop rocking the boat! Steady the frame!” stated the green sock puppet. The sea serpent disappears beneath the waves to steady his stomach and Beany tries vainly to convince his uncle that he saw a sea serpent.

“You say you saw a singing sea sick serpent named Cecil?” scoffed the plump captain, “I can’t even SAY it. How could I SEE it?” For several years (and literally hundreds of Monday through Friday episodes), Beany tried unsuccessfully to convince his uncle that not only did Cecil exist but that the sea serpent was helping them on many of their adventures. Captain Huffenpuff finally met Cecil and the captain’s famous line of “there’s no such thing as a sea serpent” was retired.

Manipulating the puppets and doing the voices were Stan Freberg (who voiced Cecil and Dishonest John among many others) and the man who would later become famous for his voice work for Hanna-Barbera, Daws Butler (who voiced Beany and the Captain among many others).

beany-daws-stan

At one time, Bill Scott (who later teamed with Jay Ward to create Bullwinkle and friends) was a writer for the show along with Charles Shows (who also did story work at Disney). Chris Allen (who also worked at Jay Ward later) and Lloyd Turner (who had been a storyman at Warners) provided the writing under Clampett’s guidance. And of course, Freberg and Butler supplied a lot of ad-libbed material especially in the beginning.

“We performed live, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, including Christmas and New Year’s, for the next five years. We managed to become the number one children’s show, while appealing to adults as well. Whole families would gather before their tv sets each evening to watch ‘Time for Beany’. A 70 share of the audience was not unusual,” claimed Freberg in his autobiography, “With mikes on our chests and both arms holding various puppets in the air, Butler and I literally had our hands full.

“We would perform all the characters, walking one hand out of camera range, only to have an assistant pull off the Chinese cook Hopalong Wong and put Tear-Along the Dotted Lion on one of our hands so we could walk him back in as the three cameras shot above our heads….We had devised a way for the pages of the script to be taped together into a continuous sheet attached to rollers, so it would move down in front of our eyes…We had invented the first crude TelePrompTer. It turned out later that the best lines often came from the ad-libs Daws and I would inspire each other to toss off, as we worked side by side, night after night—our four arms in the air, like a well-oiled machine.”

With only Freberg and Butler doing puppets, the scenarios were limited to only four characters at a time (one puppet for each hand), and Clampett had grander designs than that restriction. Walker Edmiston was doing voices for Walter Lantz cartoons but more importantly designed and built ventriloquist dummies.

“I told Clampett my hobby was designing and building puppets. That combined with the voice imitations did the trick. I was hired…and my career was launched as Daws and Stan’s other pair of arms. Now there could be six characters in a scene. My first very own character was Mouth Full of Teeth Keith who was a lion with a silly smile who wore false teeth,” stated Walker Edmiston.

Soon, the show was populated by a variety of punnish sounding characters like Hopalong Wong the Chinese cook, Clowny the clown, Crowy the crow, Smarty Pants the Frog (who was also known as The Brain, a psychiatrist who let his patients solve their own problems while he took the credit), Tear-Along the Dotted Lion, Mr. Nobody (an invisible man who was sometimes represented on screen by a floating umbrella), and Flush Garden.

beany-comicIn addition, there were Ping Pong the giant ape (George Barris, Walker Edmiston and Bill Oberlin took turns dressing up in an ape costume), Inca Dinca Doo Bird (which sounded like Jimmy Durante), Dizzy Lou and Dizzy Too (a joke on the Desilu studio formed by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball), Two Headed Freep (Eddie and Freddie) Moon Mad Tiger (voiced by Jerry Colonna) and a robot named Clank Clank McHank. Live action stars like Jerry Lewis, Liberace and Spike Jones made guest appearances.

The basic crew of the Leakin’ Lena visited such strange sounding locales as the Fifth Corner of the World, Shangri-La-Di-Da, Vitamin Pill Hill, Tin Pan Valley, Horrors Heights, Widow’s Peak, Close Shave Cave, Nothing Atoll, and in one of the most memorable adventures, The Schmoon (which was the moon’s moon).
In an early Fifties article, writer Betty Jordan wrote, “Clampett’s scripts always point up the affection and eagerness to help his pals that is exemplified by Cecil, the ever-readiness of Beany to rescue Cecil from his troubles and by the same token, the harm that can come to Dishonest John for his dastardly deeds.

“Kids have little lessons in cleanliness, politeness, attitudes toward suspicious strangers, etc. Clampett says, ‘I don’t believe that you have to frighten children or build up too much tension to capture and hold them. Even if I did I wouldn’t risk anything that might cause an emotional scar on any child’.”

When the puppet show came to an end, Clampett continued to work on other possible projects. Eventually, he found an opportunity to transfer the characters to animation but that’s another story for another time if anyone is interested.

19 Comments

  • “Beany boy, I know every wave in this ocean. (sound of a splash) Ha! There’s one of ‘em now!”

    I see that line and I think of Willoughby running into the tree in Avery’s “The Crackpot Quail”.

  • when will time for beany be collected on dvd?

    • I think a couple shows are on the Beany and Cecil cartoon DVDs. Also, I think Stu Shostak released a couple under his line, Shokus Video, though not sure if they’re on DVD or just old fashion VHS.

    • also, winky dink and rootie kazootie.

  • Hitting someone on the head with a hammer? Good luck getting that into a children’s show nowadays.

  • Some sources I’ve seen claim that Jim MacGeorge and Erv Shoemaker, who voiced the cartoons, had earlier replaced Butler and Freberg on the puppet show. Does anyone know if this is true and, if so, when it happened?

    • Yes, it is true that Erv Shoemaker and Jim MacGeorge did take over as voices even before the 2-D animated version called “THE BEANY & CECIL SHOW”. I don’t know exactly when this happened for the puppet version, but the episode called “THE GIANT WHITE GORILLIA” features their voice talents instead of Daws and Stan.

    • Earl Kress posted this five years ago on the old GAC board:

      They left the show in either 1952 or ’53. I forget which right now, although I think it was ’53. I’m pretty sure they did the show for 5 years.

      MacGeorge and Shoemaker were around earlier and would replace Daws and Stan when they were sick or on vacation. Clampett asked both Daws and Stan to do the cartoon show, but they both turned him down. They hated Clampett and the way they were treated during the puppet show. Daws finally made up with Clampett at a 1980′s Comic-Con, although they never spoke again after that.

    • There’s an article in the January 7, 1954 issue of Variety, about Erv Shoemaker, Jimmy McGeorge, and Walker Edmiston being signed to long-time contracts By Bob Clampett Productions to replace Freberg and Butler. Shoemaker had been Freberg’s understudy, and there’s a story in the January 8 issue in which Freberg mentions his resentment over being required to show up for TIME FOR BEANY five days a week when Clampett was giving him only getting a line or two and Shoemaker was carrying the burden of Freberg’s former duties.

      Clampett also sued Freberg (and NBC) in 1956 for two million dollars over a hand puppet named Grover Freberg was appearing with on television. Clampett claimed that “Grover” was Cecil, and that Freberg’s contract forbade him from doing that character outside TIME FOR BEANY.

      MacGeorge was Daws Butler’s understudy.

  • Yes please. I love anything to do with Beany and Cecil.

  • Sadly, the Sonny Bono Copyright Act keeps TIME FOR BEANY mostly off DVDs. Clearing all the music rights for songs post-1923 is a nightmare and a very costly one. We’re paying a terrific price to keep Mickey Mouse under copyright for the Disney Corporation! The Clampett family has a wonderful collection of 16mm and 35mm kinescopes of many of the KTLA and KTTV puppet shows, a lot of TIME FOR BEANY, some BUFFALO BILLY and even some of the prime time WILLY THE WOLF shows, one of which features Spike Jones and his pet kangaroo (not a puppet). This is a wonderful treasure, it should be preserved, but alas, so much time has gone by due to music rights problems that the characters have all been forgotten. I’m glad that Rob Clampett cleared the small number of episodes that were released on the Beany and Cecil DVDs. Those will have to suffice for we who love the Clampett puppet shows.

    • Is anything being done about at least preserving the 16mm and 35mm kinescopes?

    • “Is anything being done about at least preserving the 16mm and 35mm kinescopes?”

      Which is certainly important.

  • I learned more about punning from the animated show than anywhere else! I would love to have all the episodes. I have yet to see the mosquito, Cyranose de Bugsarebac, since I was a kid, but I still remember that episode!

  • There are 4 Time For Beany episodes on the first Beany & Cecil DVD from 1999, and two more on the 2nd Beany & Cecil DVD from 2009.

  • Wow, I never knew that there were so many other characters to the puppet show. I was originally under the false impression that it wasn’t until the 2-D animated TV adaptation of the show that BEANY & CECIL became such a colorful (no pun intended) program. I have the two DVD primers that do feature some episodes of “TIME FOR BEANY”, but really, Clampett Family, I’d looove to see a more completist set around the program(s). They are both wackily witty…and I’d love to see the episodes on which celebrity guests make an appearance. I still don’t know who did the voices of characters on the animated version like Careless the Mexican Hairless and Slop-Along Catskill. Those who are familiar with “BACHELOR FATHER”, still on Antenna TV, will immediately recognize Sammy Tong voicing Peking Tom, a one time sidekick of Dishonest John on the cartoon show, but I don’t know of any other famous names that connected themselves with the Bob Clam-pett cartooooon! Both “TIME FOR BEANY” and “THE BEANY & CECIL SHOW” (with or without Matty Mattel) are always well worth visiting. The more I watch those shows, the more I can see how John Kricfalusi was easily inspired by Clampett’s work beyond the vintage LOONEY TUNES. Some of my favorite hours in front of the TV set were spent watching endless reruns of “THE BEANY & CECIL SHOW”, and I hope that generations to come will always have the opportunity to visit these shows for the first time and perhaps get the same buzz I’d always gotten from all the best moments.

  • I left my best friend’s birthday party early so I could go home and catch Time for Beany.

    • Even Albert Einstein had to leave an important meeting early…It was “Time for Beany.”

  • “Hitting someone on the head with a hammer? Good luck getting that into a children’s show nowadays.”

    Korra on Nick gets away with a lot worse then that and thats TV-Y7 yet CN’s shows with a TV-PG tend to go nowhere near what Korra dose with it’s TV-Y7 (With the sole exception of Sym-Bionic Titan and maybe Young Justice as CN only show(s) that deserve it’s (their) TV-PG rating(s)); As a Avery and Clampett fan, shows like Korra and whats going on right now make me sick and I beg for more shows like Beany & Cecil to be made today, the only time TV animation ever truly shine after the early 60′s with with TMS’ golden age between 1980/1985 to 2000 (starting with Ulysses 31 and booming with Gummi Bears and ending with Return Of The Joker), there were other studios that competed with TMS that matched up to their high standers like Spumco & Gainax but during that time TMS always came out on top, If said soccer moms were to watch Korra and the like, they will let their kid watch shows with anvils, wild takes, characters hitting each other with hammers and mostly, having fun watching said cartoon rather then having it being a chore to watch, and have said soccer moms let their kids watch said shows because Korra is doing alot worse then just having the characters hitting each other over the head with hammers.

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