Once again we delve into the Playhouse Pictures files to bring you a selection of stupendous spots and stills, along with a very special surprise.
The spots are from 1957 and 1958, when Playhouse was entering a very prolific period. 1957 was also when the studio moved from 749 North Highland Avenue to its final location at 1401 North LaBrea Avenue.
And now, on with the show…
Designed by Saul Bass. It’s downright nice to see a soap that enjoys its work so much. From 1958.
Bob’s Big Boy
A series of four ten-second spots for the Bob’s Big Boy restaurants made in 1957 and narrated by Herschel Bernardi. The name “Bob’s” was intentionally left off of the picture track to allow the animation to be used for the other Big Boy franchises.
Ford – Gondola
Made in 1957 to plug the ’58 models. Directed by Bill Melendez. Animation by Pat Mathews. Designed by Chris Jenkyns. Vocal by Herschel Bernardi.
Falstaff Old Pro – Enemy Players
Another Old Pro spot, this one featuring the hapless Elwood. Directed by Bill Melendez. Animated by Herman Cohen. Designed by Sterling Sturtevant. Eddie Mayhoff is The Old Pro. From 1958.
Here are three early Burgie Man spots featuring the voice of Eugene Bollay. Directed and animated by Robert Cannon. From 1957.
The Video That Never Happened
Back in 1992, when our own Jerry Beck was still a partner in Streamline Pictures, we had discussed the idea of making a series of video tapes containing commercials from the vault of Playhouse Pictures. We ran the idea past Gerry Woolery, and he gave us permission to proceed. At that point Jerry and I wrote out a plan for a series of five tapes, along with their possible content.
We figured the first tape would be a broad overview of the studio’s output, and we thought it might nice to have a host to introduce them.
It may have been at the wake for Ade Woolery that I asked the lovely and talented June Foray if she would like to host the first tape. June, like so many people in the cartoon business loved Ade, and she agreed to do it on the spot.
In the days leading up to the taping of the introduction, Jerry and I went through some ten hours of commercials and selected about forty-five minutes worth. Then one afternoon, probably the day before shooting, we wrote the copy.
The video was shot with one camera in and about Playhouse pictures. You can see a bit of the exterior along with the sounds of traffic rolling down LaBrea Avenue. You can also see one of the animation cameras, the paint room, and the editing room. The editing room especially fills me with nostalgia. I can still hear the sound of the clattery green Moviola to this day. Most of the cans in the background contain reels of sound effects, all on 35mm magnetic film. There’s a shot in one of the screening rooms where you can see the Duck Factory Emmy’s in the background.
June was of course very gracious and charming, and she read our corny copy like a real trooper. Here then is about four and a half minutes that I cut out of the raw video using some cheap software. (This was from a dub with timecode. The original video master is still missing at the time of this posting.)
To the best of my recollection, the reason the video remained uncompleted was because Jerry left Streamline Pictures. His former partner Carl Macek was uninterested in releasing the tapes, so that was the end of it. The least we can do is post it here – enjoy this little trip through to one of the great animation studios from the golden age of TV commercials.