Animation History
November 16, 2015 posted by Jerry Beck

Paramount Cartoons 1965-1966

Boxoffice
Honey Halfwitch makes the cover of BOXOFFICE MAGAZINE!

Honey Halfwitch makes the cover of BOXOFFICE MAGAZINE!

To say the cartoons produced from here on are a “mixed bag” would be an understatement. There are indeed some little gems to be filtered out. The good ones are worthy of some attention, the bad ones are truly abominable.

It would be another year of change at the top management level – all while trying to produce a consistent product, maintaining a release schedule and reaching to create a popular character of some sort – any sort.

honey-halfwitch-600Howard Post started the season concentrating his focus on Honey Halfwitch, a series he apparently sold the top brass at Paramount on. Desperate for something, they threw themselves behind it. The lead character (voiced by popular TV puppeteer Shari Lewis) is somewhat cute, but Post loads the premise with too many characters and a rich universe (perhaps too rich) that could fit easily within the Harvey Comics world (which Post was a part of, drawing Spooky, Hot Stuff and others before, during and after this period).

His other efforts to create cartoon stars landed with a thud – perhaps some of the worst characters in the history of animation – in some of the poorest films ever foist upon the movie-going public: Rat Ffink and Ffat Kat, Hangdog and Moxie Foxie, Rapid Rabbit and Road Hog. I’m not making these up. They were real; I can’t unsee them.

The worst offender was probably “Booby Baboon”. A chimpanzee ex-con turned newspaper reporter, who appeared in two painfully unfunny Modern Madcaps before Paramount pulled the plug. The studio knew it needed a more experience hand to run the studio creatively, and they turned to veteran animator/director Shamus Culhane in late 1965.

According to Culhane (in his book, Talking Animals And Other People), “Post had incurred the wrath of some members of Paramount’s board of directors when he produced a film about Noah’s Ark that seemed to have anti-religious overtones.” The worst offense of Post’s Noah’s Ark picture, Two By Two, is its blatant attempt to rip-off the character of Daffy Duck – here called “Quacky Whack”. The short was held up from release until about a year after Post was let go.

nudnik1In addition to hiring Culhane to replace Post, the studio (fronted by Paramount executive Burton Hanft) gave a series order to Gene Deitch. In 1964 Deitch submitted his latest short (Nudnik #2) to the Academy and he was once again nominated for an Oscar. Paramount, still hurting from the loss of Seymour Kneitel, decided to pick up the short (retitled as Here’s Nudnik) and give Deitch a commitment to release six Nudnik cartoons a year – in both the 65-66 season and the 66-67 season to come!

Howard Post was dismissed while in the middle of a special project he had great hopes for – the first of series of Bill Dana “Jose Jimenez” animated comedies. Shamus Culhane took over the studio in the middle of this particular production. The concept was abandoned after making the pilot, but the material was released as a short, I Want My Mummy, (embed below) in March 1966.

Getting Culhane up to speed at his new studio took several months – to ease the transition, they took an incomplete Kozmo cartoon (Space Kid – the cartoon Kneitel was working on when he had his heart attack) off the shelf, completed it and released it in February to help satisfy the troubled release schedule. Culhane’s new studio also had to finish the contract for Honey Halfwitch cartoons they were committed to – most written and recorded before Howard Post was dismissed.

Culhane encouraged his artists at Paramount  - here participating with an in-house art show, covered by Paramount's house organ in May 1966.

Culhane encouraged his artists at Paramount – here participating with an in-house art show, covered by Paramount’s house organ in May 1966.

Culhane came in and encouraged a new progressive creative policy at Paramount – the goal to diversify what contemporary theatrical shorts could be. Never mind that the sales department simply wanted another “Bugs Bunny”, or that the parent company’s goal of moving into television production demanded a more “commercial” approach.

Culhane’s first brainstorm was a character named “Sir Blur” – a medieval take on Mr. Magoo. The initial cartoons are certainly different and are relatively pleasing to the eye. But they are essentially unfunny and irrelevant. Time-filler material. Nothing to really talk about.

His next move – and maybe his best move – was to hire artist Gil Miret to design his pictures and to champion animator Howard Beckerman as a writer and character designer. Beckerman’s tour-de-force The Trip was exactly the kind of short Culhane wanted the studio to make. One with a strong ‘artists point of view’. It’s essentially the kind of little independent film that animators would create on their own over the next 20 years.

More about Culhane and a look at his best shorts next week. For now, let’s take a closer look at the 1965-66 releases.

But first, a moment of silence for the Noveltoons (which began in 1943) and the Modern Madcaps (which started in 1958) – this is where these series come to an end.

Seven (7) Modern Madcaps

SOLITARY REFINEMENT (9/65) Post/Reden. Booby Baboon tries to break of of prison.
THE OUTSIDE DOPE (11/65) Post/Tafuri. Reporter Booby Baboon, ordered to do a story on prison life, tries to get himself arrested.
I WANT MY MUMMY (3/66) Culhane/Harriton. Jose Jimenez (voiced by Bill Dana) applies for an archeology job which involves a search for a lost city and a mummy.
A BALMY KNIGHT (6/66) Culhane/Harriton. Nearsighted medieval knight Sir Blur stumbles upon Gran’pa Dragon and his son Sparky who are having a picnic.
A WEDDING KNIGHT (8/66) Culhane/Eugster. When King Arthur announces Tournament Day, with the winner earning the right to marry his fat, homely daughter, Sir Blur enters the competition.
TWO BY TWO (12/66) Post/Eugster. When Noah builds the ark, Quacky Whack seeks a female duck in order to board the ship.
THE BLACK SHEEP BLACKSMITH (1/67) Culhane/Tafuri. Sir Blur is a postman who has a postage-due letter for the blacksmith.


Seven (7) Noveltoons

TALLY HOKUM (10/65) Post/Taras. Hangdog goes on a fox hunt for Moxie Foxie.
OP POP WHAM AND BOP (1/66) Post/Taras. Museum of Way-Out Art guard Ffat Kat chases hungry Rat Ffink around the latest installation.
SICK TRANSIT (1/66) Post/Taras. Slow-moving motorist Roadhog is in the way of the hot-rodding Rapid Rabbit.
SPACE KID (2/66) Kneitel/Silverman. In sort-of a space-age remake of SOCK-A-BYE BABY (1933), Kozmo comes back to Earth and ends up minding an infant for its mother – quieting all noise making on the city street with his ray gun.
GERONIMO AND SON (12/66) Culhane/Harriton/Beckerman. Native American Geronimo, who has never shot an arrow, is forced to compete in an archery competition.
THE TRIP (4/67) Culhane/Beckerman. An office worker on vacation, an ocean cruise, falls overboard and becomes a castaway – soon befriending a native gorilla on a desert island.
ROBIN HOODWINKED (6/67) Culhane/Eugster. When Sir Blur wins the election for Sherriff, the King orders him to capture Robin Hood.


Seven (7) Honey Halfwitch Cartoons

honey-halfwitch-200SHOEFLIES (9/65) Post/Eugster. Teeny Meany convinces Honey Halfwitch to use Cousin Maggie’s magic wand to finish shining her shoes – causing the shoes to run amok.
BAGGIN’ THE DRAGON (2/66) Post/Eugster. While Cousin Maggie is away, Honey conjures up some monsters and tries to capture a fire breathing dragon.
FROM NAGS TO WITCHES (2/66) Post/Tafuri. Silent Knight and Honey Halfwitch help an old horse who has been thrown out of the castle.
TRICK OR CHEAT (3/66) Post/Taras. While Stanley The Sorcerer is babysitting Honey Halfwitch, the Chief Sorcerer arrives and wants to see Stanley’s magic tricks.
THE DEFIANT GIANT (6/66) Culhane/Eugster. Honey hypnotizes a giant named Oscar into thinking he’s a dwarf.
THRONE FOR A LOSS (7/66) Culhane/Pattengill. An enchanted frog tricks Stanley to return him to his former self – a ferocious lion. Honey and Maggie help to turn him back into a frog.
POTIONS AND NOTIONS (8/66) Culhane/Eugster. Honey pours the entire bottle of cousin Maggie’s love potion on Fraidy Bat’s birthday cake.

(Note: The Rocket Racket listed initially on Paramount’s release charts was subsequently removed – and replaced when Shamus Culhane took over.)


Six (6) Nudnik Cartoons

HERE’S NUDNIK (8/65) Gene Deitch. Nominated for an Academy Award (under the title NUDNIK #2), Nudnik tries to fix his leaky faucet.
DRIVE ON NUDNIK (11/65) Gene Deitch. Nudnik has problems with a modern automobile.
HOME SWEET NUDNIK (12/65) Gene Deitch. Nudnik is the last tenant in an apartment building under the wrecking ball.
WELCOME NUDNIK (2/66) Gene Deitch. Nudnik arrives in Crummy Junction and takes in the sights at the park and the zoo.
NUDNIK ON THE ROOF (5/66) Gene Deitch. Nudnik attempts to install a TV antenna on a roof.
FROM NUDNIK WITH LOVE (6/67) Gene Deitch. Nudnik tries to build a bird house for a robin and her family.

nudnik2

NEXT WEEK: Paramount Cartoons 1966-67, Culhane’s best and Ralph Bakshi.

(Thanks to Ken Layton and Chris Sobieniak)

33 Comments

  • Was there a Honey Halfwitch cartoon in which she makes it rain & is unable make it stop. Her Aunt (I think she was Honey’s aunt) secretly stops it for her.

    Or am I thinking of another cartoon series starring a little girl witch? Someone please help me out here.

    • I believe that cartoon is called High But Not Dry (1967) – which we will cover next week.

    • I believe that it was the 1960’s anime Sally the Witch animated by the same company who brought us Astro Boy (Mighty Atom) and The Princess Knight (Choppy and the Princess).

    • I believe that it was the 1960′s anime Sally the Witch animated by the same company who brought us Astro Boy (Mighty Atom) and The Princess Knight (Choppy and the Princess).

      No, Sally The Witch was produced by Toei Animation, Mushi Productions did the other shows.

    • Thanks for supplying the title,Jerry. I think that’s the only Honey Halfwitch cartoon I’ve ever seen.

  • Honey Halfwitch was apparently on some sort of compilation series in the 1990s. I had completely forgotten about it up until hearing the theme music brought me to the realization that it had been permanently etched in my mind despite probably only seeing it once.

    It was the embedded episode too, though the only thing vaguely familiar about it was the Bela Legosi bat and his bizarre way of talking. At any rate, it was definitely an effort to appeal to Harvey Comics and their audience.

    • The 1960s Paramount cartoons were shown on both Nickelodeon’s Weinerville and Nickelodeon’s Cartoon Kablooey back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. As far as I know that was the only time (and places) these cartoons were ever broadcast.

      On a semi-unrelated note, a clip from Space Kid was used in one scene (on a TV screen in the background) in the Eddie Murphy feature 48 Hours (Paramount, 1982). Has anyone ever spotted Paramount using any other of their 60s cartoons in their feature films?

    • I think one or two Paramount cartoons (possibly “Op, Pop, Wham & Bop”) were shown in 1985’s “The Explorers” as random footage the aliens had displayed in their ship. At least I recall the Paramount mountain logo popping up towards the end of the film at the start of the credits.

    • Here you go Jerry, and yes, it was “Op, Pop Wham & Bop” that shows up during this bit! I’m guessing they simply comb through Paramount’s short subject library for these clips.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsgnASvxyyo

    • I used to think that the cartoon segment in THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST (a 1967 Paramount feature that I first saw on TV in the 1980s and now have on DVD) was done by the cartoon studio, but later learned online (maybe here?) that it was actually done by De Patie-Freleng. (No surprise since they did some TV title work in addition to the Pink Panthers and Inspectors of this period.) This reminds me of Paramount “allegedly” contracting Leon Schlesinger at Warner’s (in California) for a cartoon segment in ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933 version) instead of “in house” Fleischer (in NYC). Of course, I could be corrected here.

  • Paramount’s final season of “Popeye Champions” reissues:

    1) “Parlez Vous Woo”
    2) “I Don’t Scare”
    3) “Nearlyweds”
    4) “The Crystal Brawl”
    5) “Spree Lunch”
    6) “A Job for a Gob”
    7) “Insect to Injury”
    8) “Cookin’ with Gags”

  • Robin Hoodwinked was also the title for two animated cartoons in the 1950’s one featuring Popeye the Sailor (with a Shorty like sidekick for Popeye) and Tom and Jerry (starring the late Lucille Bliss as the voice of a Cockney English accented Nibbles/Tuffy Mouse)

    • Obviously a pretty easy title to think up and not realize it’s been used before.

  • I liked the early Honey Halfwitch cartoons before she got “re-designed”.

    As to Sir Blur, definitely more of a time waster than a time filler!

    • I liked theose earlier ones too, if only because she could be in her element, whereas the Culhane/Harriton shorts tend to want to isolate her simply because she’s a witch in modern times and it’s played up like that (though I guess they could go the Sabrina the Teenage Witch where she kept that a secret from mortal friends but they squashed that in the first revised cartoon).

      And yeah, Sir Blur is a Medieval Mr. Magoo, nothing more.

  • The Nudnick cartoons were shown over the course of, at least, two nights on Cartoon Network’s Toon Heads.
    My younger brother and I saw a whole bunch of these in a movie theatre in the early ’70s as a marketing promo for, of all things, Quaker Oats’s King Vitamin cereal!! I remember: thinking that Honey Halfwitch was a Wendy The Good Little Witch knock-off , the Paramount logo covered in flowers, and Nudnick riding the wrecking ball in “Home Sweet Nudnick”!!

  • Ah, Nudnik. What a character!

    I was wondering if anyone had the recordings to the live-action take on the character that Cartoon Network produced in the 1990s (Jim Korkis’ “Animation Anecdotes” book mentions it as part of a series with brand new shorts and repacked Rembrandt shorts).

  • Post’s cartoons for the most part this season seem to have been exclusively targeted at the kids’ market, which is why it’s ironic that Paramount’s mid-1960s efforts probably received less exposure to kids on TV than any of the studios still churning out stuff for theaters by then.

    Culhane’s efforts definitely got off to an uneven start — his cartoons right from the beginning no longer looked like Paramount’s theatrical work had from about 1957 on (or like the concurrent stuff being put out by Joe Oriolo or Hal Seeger did), but story-wise, the Sir Blur cartoons might just as well been re-titled ‘Medieval Magoo’ (UPA’s TV success with the character and his use as a pitchman for General Electric in the mid-60s was probably the reason why Paramount decided to rip him off, but without Jim Backus’ voicework to go along with the character, the nearsightedness bit gets old fast).

    • Post’s cartoons for the most part this season seem to have been exclusively targeted at the kids’ market, which is why it’s ironic that Paramount’s mid-1960s efforts probably received less exposure to kids on TV than any of the studios still churning out stuff for theaters by then.

      If anything, I wonder if that was for the best given the circumstances. Paramount could’ve easily gave these cartoons away to Harvey for free if they wanted.

      Culhane’s efforts definitely got off to an uneven start — his cartoons right from the beginning no longer looked like Paramount’s theatrical work had from about 1957 on (or like the concurrent stuff being put out by Joe Oriolo or Hal Seeger did)

      It is interesting to see how so many staples that were implemented after '57 simply get thrown out by Culhane the way the animation (though still limited) appears to not show it as much. A lot more movement and less the stiffness seen in Kneitel or Post's efforts. The classic "Scenics" credit that had been used by the studio regularly for the past 20 years is replaced with "Design", which seems to be an umbrella title for both backgrounds, layouts and character designs the way more than one artists is sometimes credited under it. "The Trip" certainly shows promises of what Culhane wanted to do now that he had control of the studio.

  • What’s interesting about the the Sir Blur cartoons is that they would otherwise be pretty good if Blur himself wasn’t in them. The best parts of Robin Hoodwinked are the segments that don’t have him in it.

    Although most interesting about the cartoon in question is that Sir Blur only has one near-sighted joke in the whole cartoon, otherwise he’s just a cantankerous old goat.

  • Oh, and I think there should be some mention of the fact that Post’s late career was heavily devoted to trying to revive the “funny animal” cartoons which were mostly rip-offs of existing cartoons in the WB/MGM vein.

    -Whacky Quacky was clearly a Daffy ripoff, along with the first version of Booby Baboon (who sounds a lot like Plucky Duck from Tiny Toons)
    -Rat Ffink and Phat Cat were essentially Tom & Jerry or Herman & Katnip with only the ugly character designs and the jazzy soundtrack to set it apart.
    -Sick Transit is a definite attempt to rip off the Coyote/Roadrunner formula
    -Tally Hokum was essentially “British Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd” (or even, dare I say, a Cool Cat/Colonel Rimshot ripoff?)

    These often outright ripped off better known gags of the series and are just made worse thorough poor timing, lame gags, often ugly character designs, and possibly some of the worst character names out there.

    Actually, I thought Booby Baboon was the least horrible of the lot.

    • I hate to say the first of these 60’s Paramount cartoons I had ever saw entirely in my life happen to be “Solitary Refinement”, I remember seeing it around the fall of 1989 on Nickelodeon during their Sunday morning program called ‘Total Panic”. I noticed this was one of the last cartoons to be animated by Morey Reden at Paramount this season (later to move went and continue working at the usual Hollywood cartoon mills), for what it is, there’s still some clever moments in this I liked.
      http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjvpy7_solitary-refinement_shortfilms

  • Are you covering “The Mighty Thor” cartoons, or only theatrical stuff?

    • I’m not “covering” it in-depth – but it will certainly be mentioned in next week’s post.

  • We should have a story about the moonlighting of the Paramount crew working on the Trans-Lux “Felix the Cat” and Mighty Hercules” cartoons.

    I think Paramount should have released the Felix the Cat cartoons theatrically since they were so much better than this seasons theatrical releases.

  • “Booby Baboon” sounds so bad I wanna see it.

  • 11/17/15
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    The only times I remember seeing any “Honey halfwitch ” cartoons was during the 1990’s on Nickelodeon Cable’s “Weinerville” and “Cartoon Kablooey” segments (along with some repeats of Hal Seeger’s/Screen Gems cartoon “Batfink”.)
    These cartoons from Paramount must have been obscure indeed, as I have seen them less often on TV repeats than the “Casper” or “Popeye” cartoons. I remember that Honey halfwitch had two drastically different designs in characterizations One By Howie Post’s crew, and the other by Shamus Cullhane’s crew. I distinctly remember Howie post better by his work in comic books and his comic strip of the 1970’s, “The Drop-Outs” featuring castaways Sandy and Alf. I also recall seeing “Nudnick” cartoons by Gene Deitch on AMC’s Movie Station Cable as between-film filler. I always felt sorry for the pathetic fellow that was “Nudnick” As in many of Gene Deitch’s cartoons, he always seemed to be a sad character,this time portraying a homeless man who always runs into some hard luck with the world.

  • Interesting fact: Several years after Howard Post used Shari Lewis in the “Honey Halfwitch” series, Post ended up writing material for Shari Lewis on some of her shows.

    • I guess what goes around, comes around in that case!

  • Glad to be a 90s kid to recognize Shari Lewis’ voice, because Honey Halfwitch sounds like Lamb Chop!

    • I guess we ought to be thankful Lampchop got to invade another generation’s group of tots in order for this to be recognizable! I rarely saw Shari Lewis outside of a TV special or two in the 80’s.

  • Interesting that one of the credited writers of “Sick Transit” is Bud Sagendorf. Was this his only contribution to the studio?

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