ANIMATION SPIN
September 9, 2014 posted by

Meet “The Beagles” (1966)

Today, a journey through the grooves of Saturday Morning rock and roll comedy. From Total TeleVision, makers of Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo and Go-Go Gophers comes one of the most obscure musical cartoons ever broadcast: The Beagles (1966).

TheBeagles-TVLP600

HERE COME THE BEAGLES
From the Popular Television Series
Harmony (Columbia) Records HS-14561 (Stereo) HL-9561 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1966)

Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Charles Fox. Running Time: 22 minutes.
Songs: “Looking for the Beagles (Theme),” “Sharing Wishes,” “Indian Love Dance,” “What More Can I Do,” “I’d Join the Foreign Legion,” “Be the Captain,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Thanks to the Man in the Moon,” “I Wanna Capture You,” “You Satisfy” by Watts “Buck” Biggers, Tread Covington, Joe Harris and Chet Stover.

The Fab Four’s many “tributes” included a largely forgotten cartoon series by the foursome who founded Total Television in New York. Ad agency creative Buck” Biggers and Chet Stover, who with account executive Tread Covington and character designer/storyboard artist Joe Harris, brought King Leonardo and Underdog to TV, made their last stab at a hit series on CBS, September 10, 1966.

TheBeagles-45rpmIt was during the same time slot as King Features’ animated version of The Beatles on ABC. No matter how good the show or the music might have been, there was no contest. After a season on CBS and reruns on ABC, the show disappeared. This was the first and only TTV series that was not among General Mills’ aggressively marketed cartoons (which also included the Jay Ward shows). Biggers, Stover, Harris and Covington owned The Beagles, wrote the songs, and proudly added their names to the credits and owned the show themselves (along with the previously uncredited principals at Gamma Productions, which animated the show in Mexico.)

Before he became a Grammy-winning and Oscar nominated composer, Charles Fox handled the musical direction of The Beagles. Columbia, which was owned by CBS, released all the songs from the series on their Harmony budget label. The music was recorded in Mexico but Fox himself may have done the vocals in L A., perhaps. The harmonies are reminiscent of Chad and Jeremy (“A Summer Song”) and the overall quality is not unlike music heard on AM radio of the mid-sixties. Judging from the clips, portions of the songs were sung at least twice in each adventure.

According to Mark Arnold’s indispensable book, Created and Produced by Total TeleVision (from which spring nearly all the facts in this post), Harris has the films but thinks very little of the show. But having seen the few available examples (see below), the cartoons are actually quite entertaining, very much in the classic TTV style and likely to bring back some boomer memories. The Beagles aren’t Underdog or Tennessee Tuxedo — or even Tooter the Turtle — but they sure give Klondike Kat and Commander McBragg a run for their money. Surely Shout! Factory must have considered issuing the series on DVD.

The Beagles show is so rare I can’t resist posting the only two examples known to exist online:

Part One of “Foreign Legion Flops(Black and white with show open and end credits)

Parts One and Two of “I Feel Like Humpty Dumpty(Color without open and close)

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Lookin’ for The Beagles” & “Be the Captain”

Charles Fox had not yet developed his distinctive style in The Beagles’ songs, but rather strove to give them legitimacy alongside mainstream pop. Each song is catchy and some are even memorable. “Be the Captain” from “The Captain of the Ship” episode is one that stuck in the heads of many viewers long after the show had gone away.


pufnstuf-soundtrackLP600

PUFNSTUF
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album
Of a Sid and Marty Krofft Production

Capitol SW-542 (Stereo / 12” LP / 30 minutes / 1970 / Album Producer: Charles Fox.
CD Reissue: EL/Cherry Red Records ACMEM65CD (2006)

Performers: Jack Wild (Jimmy); Billie Hayes (Miss Witchiepoo); Martha Raye (Boss Witch); Mama Cass Eliot (Witch Hazel); The Charlie Fox Singers.
Songs: “If I Could,” “Living Island,” “A Friend in You,” “Pufnstuf,” “Different,” “Zap the World” by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel.
Instrumentals: “Fire in the Castle,” Witchiepoo’s Lament,” “Angel Raid,” “Charge!” “Leaving Living Island,” “Rescue Racer to the Rescue” by Charles Fox. “How Lucky I Am” by Les Szarvas.

Pufnstuf_MoviePosterCharles Fox was on the rise when Sid & Marty Krofft produced their first feature film based on their first TV series. At a glance, the film looks like a more elaborate, lengthened episode of their seminal Saturday Morning fantasy, H.R. Pufnstuf (NBC, 1969). But in reality, despite the low budget and slapdash feel, the movie Pufnstuf (released in 1970 by Universal) has the effusive nature of a maiden voyage into the big screen world—which while not as lavish as a multi-million dollar musical, is nonetheless more ambitious than the series.

More than anything else, it has energetic, powerful music. Pufnstuf was released just before ABC premiered its anthology comedy Love, American Style and initiated the kind of Charles Fox/Norman Gimbel theme song that would dominate the top ten lists of TV shows in the ‘70s. After working with the Kroffts on NBC’s The Bugaloos, Fox (and usually lyricist Gimbel) racked up a staggering number of iconic themes, several of which were recorded as singles and enjoyed successful radio play.

The Pufnstuf soundtrack album is a marvelous blueprint of the songs and themes awaiting Fox in the ensuing decade. One after another, the melodies, vocals, forms and structures of other Fox compositions spin out from the soundtrack album grooves. Hints of The Love Boat theme in “A Friend in You,” the bold brass blasts of Wonder Woman are evident in “Zap the World,” and the essences of “Ready to Take a Chance Again” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” are woven through “If I Could,” which has an up-tempo bridge that suggests the theme to Laverne and Shirley.

The musical production, vocal arrangements and overall spectacle of the Pufnstuf soundtrack make it one of this writer’s “desert island discs.”

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Living Island”

This joyous musical set piece builds on every verse, playing around with a variety of tonal expressions until the big “bring it home!” finish. Delightfully as it was staged in the film, this song sounds as if it belongs to something much grander. You hear Charles Fox’s musical tricks all in one big, boisterous bag.

As heard in full stereo:

As seen in the movie (gotta love those heh-vee ‘70s zooms and jump cuts!):

17 Comments

  • Greg,. I’m kinda surprised you didn’t post a “give a little listen” to Mama Cass Elliot’s showstopper from PUFNSTUF. It’s a beautiful song that’s perfect for Cass’ wonderful voice, and it’s outlived its source by becoming a minor anthem to the GLBT community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7rAaYFFeZk

    • HI Scott (belated happy birthday)!

      Choosing one cut from this album was difficult as all of them are my favorites, so I went with Living Island for its sheer ebullience and as a Charles Fox stylistic overview.

      “Different” is also a very important song because of its message to anyone who has suffered for who they are and how life has treated them — in my case, because I listened to and loved “baby records” (their words) like Pufnstuf, Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Golden, Chipmunks, etc — long after it was “normal”. My grandparents used to ask my parents, “What’s wrong with that kid?” It’s especially difficult when the pain comes from your relatives as well as schoolmates and siblings’ friends.

      Like the song, I discovered some others like me-eee-eee-eee-eee-eee, including (thank heaven) my spouse, and folks like you who enjoy sharing this column with me every week. Thanks to Jerry for asking me to do this feature for Cartoon Research, because Animation Spin is a “serious” anaylsis of a long-neglected art form as well as a personal joy.

      Hmmm. Maybe I should have chosen it as the Give a Little Listen…

  • Greg:
    It was really a trippy post this time!The Beagles clips were good(That was one I don’t remmber seeing,but probably would have watched!)The Pufnstuf trailer was also good,but Art Gilmore made it extra special!Thanks for the groovy memories!

    • Far out, Andy. Thanks!

  • I recall THE BEAGLES with some fondness. The Beagles song I have never been able to get out of my head is “I Wanna Capture You,” which had a very strong hook.

  • As seen in the movie (gotta love those heh-vee ‘70s zooms and jump cuts!):

    Also doesn’t hurt to use the opening logo of the very studio releasing your film just because it works so well for that one line in the tune! 😉

  • Yes the Beagles brings back some good memories!! Let’s hope someday the series will be available on DVD because even through it was one of the last series from Total Television it had the same good qualities of Total’s earlier productions. We knew what we were getting. A show that both kids and adults can enjoy. Thanks for the post.

  • We can continue the Charles Fox/ cartoon connection with his scores for 9 to 5 and Strange Brew. The former contained Lily Tomlin’s live action/animated revenge fantasy, and the latter featured re-dubbed music tracks for Tom and Jerry clips. (Also, Mel Blanc provides a voice-over as the unseen father of the main characters.)

  • Those Beagles songs are actually pretty darn good. Hopefully they will get a release one day.

  • Oh my goodness, I actually remember The Beagles, very, very vaguely. Catching up to do!

    I love Charles Fox’s work, even in dire tish like Two-Minute Warning, and listen to the Pufnstuf album pretty frequently. If I had to pick a favorite track, “Zap the World” springs immediately to mind, but they’re all wonderful. (The movie I can take or leave. I love the themes from all the Krofft stuff but never quite got into the shows.)

  • The Beagles did not air at the same time slot as The Beatles’ show did. It aired at 12:30 PM (The Beatles were on at 10:30 on ABC while Space Ghost was on CBS at that time).

    ABC did no favors for the Beagles by rerunning them Sunday afternoons (when many ABC stations did not clear it) and billed it as The Beagles & Tennessee Tuxedo.

  • Ooo! I have the PUFNSTUF album. Autographed by Billie Hayes, too!

    I remember seeing that at a children’s matinee sometime mid-late 70s. The two things I remember is that there was only half-a-dozen of us in there, and that the print had more splices in it than I think I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • I enjoyed The Beagles as a kid, and the clips brought back pleasant memories. For years, the show was considered “lost,” even though it really wasn’t. The Mark Arnold book has some editing problems in that it’s not always clear who is quoting who about what; but I gather what apparently happened was the originals were accidentally shipped to either Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample or P.A.T. along with all the other TTV materials and simply put into storage, left undiscovered until Golden Books took over everything. Meanwhile, the TTV partners thought their film editor’s widow had accidentally discarded them with her late husband’s workprints. At least it’s a happier ending than the Filmation shows faced in the loving hands of Hallmark Cards.
    (When you care enough, y’know…)

    PS: Does anyone but me remember a show called Topper Toys Cartoon Fun? It ran late Sunday afternoons on ABC, maybe just in the first half of the TV season leading up to Christmas, and comprised a mash-up of TTV and (I think) Jay Ward segments…

  • Are you sure Charles Fox produced the Beagles songs? I don’t own the album myself, but I have a copy of the ‘Looking for the Beagles’ / ‘I Wanna Capture You’ single and the producer’s credit of both songs is given to Robert Lissauer on the label (Charles Fox is only credited as arranger and conductor), so I’d imagine he also produced the other songs too.
    A little speculation here: I have no idea who the musicians were on the Beagles songs (it seems nobody’s really sure), but to me it sounds like the vocals are all sung by one guy. Charles Fox himself, perhaps?

  • Hello,

    I’ve been doing some research on The Beagles as my fiance’s father was one of the creators. In doing some cleaning we found a box of film reels that appears to be some of the episodes of The Beagles. We aren’t sure what to do with them or how to confirm what they are. If anyone has any ideas of who we should contact, please feel free to pass any info along.

    Regards,
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew,

      Can you contact me? I can be reached at funideas.mark@gmail.com or at (408) 482-9327. I wrote a book on Total TeleVision in 2009 and interviewed Joe Harris prior to that. He had told me that he had copies of “The Beagles” cartoons and I was trying to help him, but lost touch with him. I’m not even sure if he’s still around as Buck Biggers and Tread Covington of TTV have passed away since I wrote my book. In any case, please contact me.

    • Hi Mark

      How is it going on getting The Beagles released. I’m a big fan of the show and I would like to see more episodes.

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